The year 1991 was a watershed in the history of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The sky was raining to give a refreshing shower of independence and dignity, washing away the filth of humiliation, oppression and colonization. After a hundred years of foreign rule, the people of Eritrea, under the leadership of EPLF defeated and disintegrated the military government of Ethiopia. Mengistu Hailemariam fled into exile; Eritrea’s freedom fighters entered Asmara after thirty years of struggle, on May 24, 1991 and four days later EPRDF entered Addis Ababa heavily shielded by EPLF’s mechanized and commando units. When EPLF drove out the Derg, it also won the mandate to rejuvenate Eritrea. The great, courageous and industrious youth of Eritrea (Sahil and Sawa generations) have stood up with great determination to bring and maintain independence.
Having gained independence in 1991, Eritrea is relatively the youngest nation state as compared to other African states which almost all had reached independence by 1960s. In 1991, colonial rule was terminated and Eritreans establish an independent and sovereign country and a government of their own. For the first time in history the people of Eritrea have become masters of their own country and hold their future in their own hands. The national charter of Eritrea, adopted in the third congress of EPLF in February 1994, stated that “Achieving national independence and sovereignty is the conclusion of an important chapter in the history of the people of Eritrea, yet at the same time, the beginning of a new chapter.”
The young revolutionary generation has shouldered the historic responsibility of ousting colonization. They brought independence and passed it to the young generation. May 24, 1991, is thus historical juncture of generations that represent opportunity and heavy responsibility. It marks the beginning of a new national life and reminds us that the State of Eritrea is now 30 years old. Thirty years, though a good old age for a man but it’s a mere speck in the life of a nation. Thirty years ago the people of Eritrea were colonized people subject to humiliation, indignity, uncertainty, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest, rape, pillage and all sorts of oppression under the well supported Ethiopian colonization. They were not entitled “sovereign people” that deserve rights and dignity. As a colonized people they were merely subjects of a foreign country.
The people of Eritrea were suffering and being humiliated under successive foreign occupation. For hundred years since the formation of Eritrea (1890-1991), Eritreans were ruled under Italian, British and Ethiopian colonization. In the hundred plus one years of humiliation, Eritreans never ceased to struggle against racial segregation, colonization and dehumanization perpetuated by European and African colonizers. Nobody doubts that independence brings to mankind the greatest advantages and that the honor, interest and dignity of all persons depend on freedom. In contrast, colonization is the source of humiliation, shame, iniquity and the denial of basic human rights.
The world well remembers the valiant and ultimately successful struggle of Eritrean youth which ultimately led to the restoration of dignity and rebirth of Eritrea. The epic resistance of the Eritrean people to foreign domination and the saga of their heroism and sacrifice was demonstrated Warsay and Yikealo. The armed struggle and the resistance for maintaining independence, though bitter, costly and lengthy, constitute a glorious chapter in the rich pages of Eritrean history. It continues to serve as the symbol of indomitability in adversity, of courage when confronted by danger, of dignity and resolve when threatened with defeat, and of magnanimity and generosity in victory.
Thanks to independence every Eritreans today has secured the right to life, property and happiness. We are enjoying the right to be treated in a manner befitting to human dignity, with access to effective education, good medical care, and our personal life and property protected. Every year we celebrate the good that has been achieved over the decades since independence and we know exactly the areas which we have not done well too. In subsequent years of independence we have surmounted immense obstacles and opposition to retain and add new dignity to our independence. National independence shines the worthiness, nobleness and honor of the people. The desire to permanently erase all traces of humiliation is profound in the psyche of the laboring youth of Eritrea.
The heroes and heroines of Eritrean revolution, fathers and mothers of this nation, were wise. Our forefathers resolve to destroy the yoke of colonialism and humiliation is what gave birth to an independent Eritrea. The thirty years of struggle was conducted not for symbolic independence but for true dignity. In other words, the struggle demanded not only the ousting of foreign colonizers but demands respect. The claim of human dignity is that simply being human makes one worthy or deserving of respect. May 24, 1991 opens a new window of opportunity and gives Eritreans a means to realize their potential. The victory of 1991 reinforced the national effort to rid Eritrea of the humiliation it had suffered at the hands of colonizers and to restore it to a position of dignity and greatness.
Eritrea is currently preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of independence under the theme “Resilient- As Ever” ceremoniously. Eritrean youth are making utmost preparation in multiple fields to add their own color to the ceremony. Colorful celebration of Independence Day is a manifestation of our nationalism. While celebrating, we are also mindful of the sacrifices paid for the dignity which we claim for ourselves as Eritreans. Eritreans have gained powerful life experiences that helps transform, and mold, them to be able to use their fullest potential from the thirty years war of liberation and the twenty years of resistance to foil TPLF aggression intended to reverse our independence. The strength of the people has been demonstrated by the will to never surrender their dignity.