This article is written in line with this years Eritrean Independence day theme “Heroic feat Anchored on Cohesive Ranks!” and commemoration of 1st of September, as the official start of our armed struggle.
Eritrean national sovereignty was officially attained 30 years before. In 1993 Eritrea, was internationally recognized as a sovereign state, with the referendum result of 99.8% “Yes” for independence. This victory wasn’t miraculous; it was the result of the 30 years of bitter and long armed resistance that costed heavy sacrifices. National values were the main guiding principles of this victory: resilience, tolerance, equality, flexibility and creativity. Those values are incorporated with unity, the scarcest and precious asset that every nation strives to achieve.
The historical victory of the 1993 had given a great hope of peace and prosperity to Eritreans; meanwhile, it caused a constant worry on enemies. The enemies extensively worked to diplomatically and politically isolate Eritrea in the cover up of border disputes, human rights issues, food aid and others. Under such condition, the Eritrean people, self-reliantly mobilized themselves to defend their national sovereignty; as a result, the enemies faded and the sovereign borders were reinstated. In this historical victory, the unity of the Eritrean people played a crucial role.
The genesis of the Eritrean national unity goes back centuries, when Eritrea’s strategic significance in the Red sea attracted various invaders and a united act of resistance became mandatory for survival. Such vulnerability led to the formation of a separate political entity that clearly “… distinguishes from both Sudanese and Ethiopians.” (Richard Lobban:1976:339). During Italian colonialism, Eritrean unity strengthened with nationalism. Subsequently, by the time the British Military Administration occupied Eritrea, on May 5, 1941 the first modern Eritrean political association named Mahber Fikri Hager (Love of One’s Country) was established as a great mirror image of Eritrean’s national consciousness and unity.
Colonizers, to fulfill their desires and dismantle the Eritrean people’s unity, applied every available strategy; nevertheless, none of them were fruitful. The British Military Administration attempted to divide Eritrea and, the US, for its strategic interest unjustly federated Eritrea with Ethiopia. The UN remained silent when Ethiopia violated the federal act with oppression, and at last Ethiopia annexed Eritrea. All those violations and oppressions left Eritrean people with the only option of an armed struggle, that started on September 1, 1961. In spite of the US and Soviet’s great assistance to Ethiopia, the Eritrean people’s unity outnumbered the enemies and shone with victory.
The Eritrean people’s unity superseded sub-national feelings with national feelings, particularly under the EPLF. For the EPLF, “the nation came first and ethnicity formed its component part” (Alemseged Tesfai: 1997:4). Furthermore, unity empowered the Eritrean revolution to stand self-reliant without any significant external aids; weapons were captured from the Soviet-supplied Ethiopian army. Such an overwhelming unity made the “E.P.L.F. the most disciplined and effective movement in the Horn of Africa” (John Markakis: 1988: 64).
Eventually, on May 24, 1991 Eritrea was liberated from Ethiopian colonialism and in 1993 it was internationally recognized as a sovereign state. At such historical victory George W. Shepherd said “Eritrea’s importance today is not as a security base on the Red Sea but as an example to the rest of the region, of the way in which diversity can coexist and prove to be an asset” (1993:82).
According to the Eritrean National Charter (1994), Unity holds a special place for the victory of nation building, as it guarantees an active participation of the people in all national programs. Despite various challenges, the Eritrean government successfully installed institutions that safeguard national unity. Those institutions bring all citizens to a common secular ground, regardless of their ethnical, cultural and linguistic differences.
We can’t measure unity with the population size of a nation, but with the spirit of trust among citizens. A small state with a few population size can surely win peace and security, if it has a strong spirit of unity. Eritrea is the best example to prove this fact, since it gained its independence crushing the largest African modern army that had the US and the USSR’s heavy assistances, and post- independence, maintained its peace and security removing Africa’s highly US backed TPLF force from the equation.
Unity helps a nation be victorious in maintaining peace and security, providing strategies to actively, consciously and creatively deal with challenges. This national treasure assisted the Eritrean people to maintain peace and security as well as accomplishes an inspiring national development in the past 30 years. In Eritrea peace is prevalent, while other states, particularly the third world countries suffer from the lack of it.
In July 2018 the air of peace spread accross the horn of Africa and Eritrea proved its significance in the peace and security of the region. The enemies intensively engaged to reverse the reality. Such aggression is the outcome of a distorted view on the Eritrean national sovereignty. From the inception of the Eritrean independence the enemies trigged the 1996 Hanish island dispute, the 1998-2000 border excused TPLF invasion and the recently dismantled TPLF’s escapade, besides to the baseless sanctions and false allegations that aimed for the political and diplomatic isolation. However, all those aggressions remained futile by the iron unity of the Eritrean people. This victory is historical, since Eritrean national sovereignty is secured after long years of resilience.
In conclusion, Eritrean national unity is the reason for all national victories. Its genesis goes back centuries and the capacity enabled the Eritrean people stand resilient and be victorious against all odds. In a nutshell, Unity of the masses is victory to the masses!
Written by: Kidane –Shimendi