Sawa- a place of readiness and change

Readiness is sought to be identified as one of the principal components of a successful transformational change. Change and readiness are the two sides of the same coin in the process of initiating and implementing transformation within a national setting. Countries can establish institutions and organization that can lead to change and augment readiness or a sense of preparedness to positive transformational change with higher performance. Readiness can be defined as “prepared mentally and physically for an experience or action.” The well-known song composed by artist Sami Brhane, having a higher poetic and lyric standard, struck me all times when I think of Sawa. It’s all about the government’s farsighted strategy, the importance of readiness and narrates among many things the reasons for the establishment of Sawa. In one of stanzas he said “ተዳሊኻ ምጽናሕ ተራእይዎ ጥቕሙ፡ ኣድሒንዋ ሃገር ኣብ ሳዋ ዓሊሙ” directly translated as “he envisioned the advantages of readiness and by training in Sawa he saved the nation.” Here, the poem communicates effectively, clearly and in a transparent way. The artists was able to say the most he can in fewest words.


Sawa and National Service are necessary for the defense of Eritrea and provides the security needed for the country to develop and prosper. The government understands the need to be made ready for internal and external changes that can happen in the future. Preparedness saved Eritrea from imminent threat of aggression aimed to reverse to its pre-independence status. The pivotal actions of the members of national service trained in Sawa during the TPLF war of aggression (1998-2000) tells us that Eritrea was able to provide a ready power to repulse aggression. Sawa and national service played an important role in the national preparedness and combat ability of the country. These institutions have created in the heart of every citizen a sense of obligation for service to the nation in time of war and peace. Although the national service of Eritrea has encountered many difficulties, it transformed radically the collective national psychology, constitute an important component of Eritreaness and play a key role in nation building. Since its establishment in 1994, thirty four rounds were graduated from Sawa. The graduation ceremony of members of the 34th round of national service was conducted On Saturday 14th August, attended by H.E President Issaias Afewerki, top government and PFDJ officials and military commanders. For understandable reasons of coronavirus, families of the trainees are not participated in the ceremony.  


Eritrea is located in a volatile, uncertain and complex region of Horn of Africa. In the last three decades the Horn of Africa region has experienced massive political, social, economic, and demographic shifts. The region is still experiencing significant disruptions and accelerating pace of change. In such a region, national readiness and resilience is highly desired for survival. Often times, Eritrea is described as an ever ready and resilient country. The theme of the 30th anniversary of independence celebrated on 24th May of this year by itself was “resilient as ever.” Despite its small size population and meager resources, the country never failed to respond quickly and effectively in times of danger. The shortage of the country has been compensated by organizational and administrative capacity that excelled in taking advantage of long term trends and flexible bureaucracy. 


Resilience requires that a country be able to combine the capabilities to manage risk but also to embrace it.  Eritrea managed to develop a regular procedure and preparedness to do things differently. For the past thirty years of independence the country has experienced hostilities ranging from open military aggression to unjust sanctions and incessant attacks of propaganda weapon. Eritrea’s response was however, did not be limited at reducing or eliminating the risks but also to protect and preserve its core operations. In this case, Sawa and national service contribute a lot to the capability of the country to prevent and respond effectively to crises and the ability to anticipate challenges and opportunities. The tens of thousands of youth graduated from Sawa and then injected to the veins of the national body every year, make Eritrea a change-ready country and responding well to change. 


In Sawa, trainees are leaving with essential skills and knowledge needed to be prepared for higher education, vocational training and to civilian and military careers. The one year stay in Sawa transformed the youth to an informed, intelligent, and productive citizens. There is no doubt that Sawa make a significant and vital contribution to the future career preparation of all students by providing rigorous and practical courses. However, it’s important to understand the need to constantly adjust the training and education provided in Sawa to comply with expectations of the participants and demands the nation. Additional investment is needed to make Sawa a place where the academic performance, technical talents, physical fitness and employability skills of Eritrean youth is realized to its full potential.   


Eritrea’s National Service was instituted in 1994 under the National Service Proclamation No. 82/1995. This is one of the first and series acts of the newly independent country. Sawa has been termed a “school for the nation” and “small Eritrea” for its ability of transformation through education and socialization. The socialization and contact involves the transmission of revolutionary and societal norms and values to the young generation and developing a sense of loyalty to the nation. Sawa, allowed for Eritrean youth who have completed high school from different groups and regions to come together under controlled conditions to know and appreciate each other.  Besides that it allows the country to be ready to respond to internal demands and external threats. Readiness is everything for a nation to prosper and secure its borders. Readiness is often the crux to any change management and response strategy. National disintegration and humiliation are results of insufficient preparation.  


For Eritrea, a new developing nation with little population has to give training and education for its youth in order to survive and compete. The success of the national project of development and national security lies in readiness and commitment of the entire population. The institutional role of Sawa to prepare the young and increase their commitment to the prosperity and security of the country is paramount. It prepares Eritrean youth for whatever threat that comes when ever and in whatever form. The human knowledge and human power of Eritrea, both soft and hard power, have been converged in Sawa to accomplish a national cause and to change and upgrade the national status of the country.


Simon Weldemichael

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