Eritrean resilience stands strong amid regional and global crises. The war in Ukraine, Sudan civil war and the recently ceased Ethiopian and Yemen civil war are among the crises with fresh wounds. Resilience enabled Eritrean people deter intensive hostile plots of kneeling it down. A united act of resistance and sacrifice in challenges made Eritrean people resilient. Unity, respect among diversity, self-reliance, creativity and equality are some of the values that embodied resilience. Those values have been shaping the socio-economic and political development of Eritrea for centuries. To understand the evolution of Eritrean resilience, a bird’s eye-view on the historical resistance of the Eritrean people against various dominating forces will be necessary.
Eritrea fell on the eye of dominance, undeniably, due to its strategic position in the horn of Africa. The areas proximity to the Middle East and Indian Ocean trade route “…always made it vulnerable to consistent migrations and invasions both by way of the sea and from its northern, western and southern flanks” (Alemseged -Tesfay: 1997:7). For centuries, Asians, Europans and Africans used Eritrea as a battlefield, but none of those expansions acculturates Eritrean people (Bairu Tafla: Journal of Eritrean studies: 82). The migrations and invasions led to the establishment of a separate political entity. The political entity was in a frequent war with the Abyssinians (Richard Lobban: 1976: 33).
The Eritrean people much suffered from the invasion of Tigrean Warlords such as Degiyat Wubie, Raesi Alula and others. The invasion resulted a depopulation and economic crises. “Eritrean population during the coming of Rasi Yohannes to power was estimated 1.5 million, after 10 years of raids, atrocities and looting, the number dramatically decreased to 250,000 in 1896” (Teklay-Kidane:2011: 61). The continuous raids, atrocities and looting, besides to the great famine of 1888, exhausted Eritrean resistance and in effect it eased Italian occupation of Eritrea.
Italy colonized Eritrea in 1890. Achieving the colonial goals without the containment of Eritrean resistance wasn’t practical, as a result the Italian government “killed about 800 traditional leaders with their followers and imprisoned many more in Assab and Nakura (prison island)” (History of Eritrea: 2012:41). Moreover, they limited the education to fourth grade, established unfair colonial economic development, introduced racial law, confiscated land and soon. Unfortunately none of those measures were effective, in contrary the Eritrean resistance exploded across all regions and prompted for the development of Eritrean nationalism (History of Eritrea: 2012:55).
The Italian occupation lasted in 1941 and replaced by the British Military Administration. BMA defeated the Italians withdrawing the decisive role of Eritrean askeris with false promises of freedom. The BMA applied its policy of divide and rule to partition Eritrea, one part to Ethiopia and the other to Sudan. The British government had the plan to partition Eritrea since the middle of 1943. To achieve such a goal, the BMA plaughed instabilities: unresolving local conflicts, dismantling the economy, protecting Italian privileges, fueling tensions among political parties and soon. In the dismantlment of the Eritrean economy the BMA removed about 86,000,000 Pound estimated properties (Teklay-kidane: 2011:101). Despite all the efforts of the BMA to partition Eritrea, Eritreans remained resilient and united.
After the end of WWII, the question of Eritrean self-determination stood on a cliff, due to the conflicting interest of world powers. The Eritrean people warned for possible crisis could obviously occur from violating the right of self-determination, Ibrahim Sultan’s speech in the UN general assembly addressed this caution, he said “….If a wrong decision is going to be taken, for all of the forced steps we take to oppose the decision, fight for our rights, gain our freedom, safe guard our survival, the members of this committee will be responsible for any unrest or turmoil that erupts in east Africa” (History of Eritrea: 2012: 80).
By : Kidane Shimendi