Impressions on the Nakfa Youth Conference
“The national youth conference convened in the historical town of Nakfa, the symbol of resilience and steadfastness in the Eritrean struggle for liberation, will undoubtedly embolden the youth’s resilience to tackle the current hardships,” said Nardos Abbai, a YPFDJ member from Boston, Massachusetts, over a brief chitchat at the Gobye hall.
Also speaking about the symbolism, Dr. Tesfai Aradom, from Roxbury Community College in Boston, said: “Nakfa, preceded by Karora, was the second town to be liberated by the EPLF and was never recaptured despite 10-years of Ethiopian army attempt to dislodge the EPLF and retake Nakfa. Thus, convening at that very town is symbolic in its own right – a resilient approach to the concerted efforts of imposing hardships on us by various forces,” he elaborated.
During the course of the five-day long conference, cultural events, tree planting campaigns and visits to the Nakfa trenches were also accomplished. For Merhawie Misghina, a civil engineer from San Jose, California, the significance of the conference was double fold as it helped him in networking with professionals from within the country and abroad that are aspiring to take part in the overall development endeavors.
Speaking about his impressions of the Nakfa trenches, Merhawi said: “I was born in 1983, probably when the trenches were being dug. As I grew up watching documentaries about the struggle for liberation, visiting the trenches in person has left a lasting impression on me,” he pointed out.
“No matter how many pictures of the trenches I took, all summed up will never equal what I actually felt when standing there,” he added.
Participants, grouped in categories, held extensive discussions on current challenges facing the youth at home and the Diaspora and how to tackle them. The cultural misfits, the various hardships perpetuated and the responses the Eritrean youth in particular manifested, such as organizing demonstrations, petitions and fundraising campaigns, were highlighted.
Speaking on the issue, , Dr. Tesfai noted that “thanks to the collectivist mentality that the Eritrean people in general and the youth in particular have and also the ability of organizing themselves has helped to overcome those multi-faceted challenges. The ‘Positive resistance’, not resigning to the hardships but in contrary confronting them, was clearly demonstrated especially during the past couple of years of sanctions. The concerted hardships targeted against the Eritrean people inside and in the Diaspora, were met with a fierce response. In Diaspora, for instance, the impact is self-evident.”
“The amount of petitions and letters that were sent to various institutions since 2009 stands at more than half a million” he added.
Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim, Chairperson of NUEYS and YPFDJ in Saudi Arabia, said that the response of the Eritrean youth in Saudi Arabia during the two unjustified sanctions was unprecedented.
“When compared with other countries, Eritreans in Saudi accounted for the biggest number of petitions,” Ahmed said, quoting officials at the Eritrean Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the conference on his part, Ahmad said that it was a milestone in the youths’ nation building endeavors.
“It also helped the participants not only to redefine their roles in their respective communities, but also to know each other and establish networks among themselves and most of all reiterate their commitment to their homeland,” Ahmed pointed out.
In the conference various research papers that focused on the importance of philosophy, culture, identity; building optimal political system and democracy in Eritrea; Eritrea’s economy, its possibilities, policies and development strategies; global changes and Eritrea’s foreign relations; and the challenges of youth in developing countries in general as well as in their respective countries and the Diaspora, were presented.
The preparations for the conference are also worth mentioning. Both the Eritrean and PFDJ flags flew on poles all the way from the entrance of Nakfa to the centre of the town. Various banners that highlight the importance of the conference were also put up. The Gobye (Turtle) Hall, taking its name from its shape, was the venue of the conference and was decorated with flags and banners. The hall was fitted with a new conference delegate system for simultaneous translation from Tigrigna to English and Arabic, according to Engineer Matiwos Mebrahtu, IT Manager at the Asmara Palace Hotel. Accordingly, 102 participants were able to follow the conference in their language of choice.
“As there were many who came from the Diaspora and barely understood Tigrigna, those Bosch delegates were really of a big help for us during the deliberations,” said Nardos.
Salahadin Abdulqader, who came from the PFDJ Economic Affairs, is not a first-time visitor to Nakfa. As a member of the first round of National Service, almost two decades ago, his unit was assigned there to build a dam, which is still functioning. Salahadin, said that he found the friendliness of the habitants of Nakfa just as it was before. The residents’ hospitality and good heart had in fact left a lasting impression on the people.
Merhawie voiced in the end his recommendations to the youth, alluding to Mr. Yemane Gebreab’s closing speech:
“… Our generation was very ambitious to liberate the country, and we proved wrong the outsiders who said that we couldn’t. In the same regard, this generation also needs to be ambitious and realistic so as to prove our belligerents wrong time and again.”
The conference, which was held under the theme “Empowering the Youth to Build a Strong Eritrea in a Changing World”, was attended by more than 600 youth from inside and the Diaspora and was concluded by adopting a Declaration and a three-year Action Plan.