In Eritrea, beyond human & natural resources, peace is much prevalent. Peace, which is the world’s most expensive asset mankind is struggling to embrace. The Eritrean people breathe this relative peace after heavy sacrifices have been paid in the long march for independence and the process of nation building.
The definition of peace is controversial among scholars. According to Johan Galtung, peace could be categorized as negative & positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of direct violence and positive peace is the absence of structural violence (for instance: dying as a result of poverty). This implies Peace’s gradual & multi-dimensional nature that extends beyond protecting people from wars & conflicts. For any state it’s hard to attain development without peace, since peace is the back bone of Nation building.
Mutual respect amongst diversities, strong relationship between leadership and people, gender equality, unity, self-reliance, social justice, cultural revival and regional cooperation as ingredients of national security produce peace.
Eritrean relative peace has paved the way for promising achievements in the nation building process, against all odds, it could be a surprising phenomenon for outsiders as it exists in a region [Horn of Africa] where natural and man-made crises never cease to exist. The Eritrean peace derived from the national norms and values, which has been cultivated for generations and further developed in the struggle for independence, has continued in the post-independence period as a vital element in the process of nation building. Mutual respect among diversities, resilience, patriotism, self-reliance and unity are some among the many norms and values that made our national peace well-founded. Over all the national norms and values “mutual respect among diversities” holds a special place in peace building, since “Respect for the rights of others means peace.” –Benito Juarez (Mexican past President and national hero; 1806-1872). Here, Africa as the richest continent with 60% of world resources, is recommended to contextualize the Eritrean norms and values to their background, to drive out direct and structural violence (such as poverty) and achieve whole peace.
Historically, the Eritrean people are highlighted as a peace loving people. The peaceful introduction of both Christianity and Islam, peaceful cooperation among diversities and moral treatment of prisoners of war are some from the many historical facts of the peace loving culture. For instance, during the Eritrean armed struggle above 140,000 Ethiopian prisoners of war [POW] were treated morally under the EPLF. The EPLF embraced such a principle from the Eritrean peace loving culture; such acts are a main fact that inspired scholars like George W. Shepherd highlights of Eritrea “as a potential linchpin of stability and peace” in the horn of Africa. George W. Shepherd further recommends to the world to redefine Eritrea “as a force for reconstruction and stability in the Horn and Red Sea region” (George W. Shepherd: 2009: 88).
Post-independence, the Eritrean people and its government remained committed in ensuring national and regional peace as the only confirmed path towards sustainable peace and development. Such people’s determination wasn’t attractive to world dominating powers, as a result futile and baseless sanctions as well as “no war and no peace” political environment was crafted over the Eritrean people; a fact that slowed down the pace of the Eritrean economy but strengthened their national unity. Regardless of all the sanctions and multi-dimensional challenges, Eritreans remained resilient with undeniable successes in the basic national developmental programs.
According to findings, “Eritrea has the highest life expectancy in the horn of Africa, including Kenya. It has the second lowest child mortality rate, above Uganda. Concerning rural access to electricity, Eritrea is 10.5% above the Sub-Saharan African average. Its literacy rate is higher than Zambia or Rwanda. Education is free, and according to the African Development Bank “education and human capital formation” are “national priorities.” 80% of people live within two hours (walking distance) of a healthcare facility, compared to 76% in Namibia which gained independence at roughly the same time.” (Eugene Puryear: 2023). The credit to those achievements goes to those who sacrificed their life to maintain the peace.
Thus, peace is precious and can’t be possessed by force, but only by cultivating and internalizing norms and values that harmonize diversities, for as far as mutual-respect among diversities plays a crucial role in peace building. We Eritreans as the owners of this precious asset, let’s appreciate and mobilize ourselves with determination to build our nation.
Written by Kidane Shmendi