President Isaias Afewerki’s speech on the occasion of the 25th Independence day celebrations
Allow me to congratulate the people of Eritrea everywhere as well as the friends who stood on the side of, and extended their solidarity to, the liberation struggle and independence of the Eritrean people.
Let me further express our profound gratitude to all our compatriots who have come from abroad to amplify the significance of this auspicious moment, as well as to foreign and domestic artists, athletes, youth, students and children who have made tremendous efforts, under the coordination of the Commission of Culture and Sports, to present spectacular shows.
What is the significance of 25 years or quarter of century of “resilience and development”? Where did we start from; in which place? And, where are we going?
Where did we start from; where are we and where could we have been; what is the trajectory of our future progress? How do we conduct resistance and development? Why does that succeed? How did we achieve independence? How do we defend and build it? All these questions/issues impinge and define the contours of our road-map. In this perspective, I will give a bird’s eye view without going into minute details.
Resistance is a matter of both culture and heritage. And culture is nurtured by an intertwined value system. A value system takes time; it does not crystallize abruptly or by chance in a fleeting moment. It is accumulated, preserved and inherited in a complex process of formidable challenges over a long period of time. To resolutely defy colonial rule, capitulation and dehumanization; the cultivation of mutual respect and compassion; the nurturing of unity, harmony and cohesion; displaying courage, determination, patriotism and sacrifice; to foster ethos of hard work, productivity and creativity; to be steadfast in the face of trying challenges… these are the legacies and hallmarks of our values and the secret behind our victories. Our resilience and developmental progress are accordingly gauged and asserted by these innate attributes.
The quarter century of independence, marked by resilience and development, is rooted on a robust foundation of a heroic fifty year history. The fifty previous years represent the consummation of a process that was pivotal in our transformation and being as one people. As such, we need to delve deeper into the chapters of our history that we know in order to properly gauge the significance of the quarter century of independence that has elapsed as well as what will unfold in the period ahead. In this context, we may not need to go back to ancient history. But we should not ignore the exemplary feats of resistance and heroism of prominent Eritreans in different times and places against Italian colonialism and other predatory powers that preceded them.
Eritrea should have been independent in 1941 after the defeat of Italian colonial rule at the end of the Second World War as it was indeed the case with virtually all African countries whose political boundaries were established by colonial powers towards the end of the 19th century. But as it was deemed that “Eritrea’s independence would not serve US strategic interests”, its inalienable national rights were compromised and the country was put under British Military Administration for over ten years from 1941 until 1952. Its economy and physical infrastructure were deliberately ransacked. Divisive campaigns were unleashed to drive a wedge between the people and thereby fragment and weaken their resistance. From 1952 until 1962, new machinations were devised to ensnare Eritrea and its people in a bogus federal relationship. This was a prelude for outright annexation and colonial rule by proxy. .. From 1962 until 1974, various military offensives were unleashed by the United States and its regional allies through the provision of military support to the Haile Sellasie regime in order to suppress the resistance of the Eritrean people and thereby secure colonial rule by proxy. From 1974 until 1991, the former Soviet Union and its allies were engaged in futile attempts to suppress the legitimate liberation struggle of the Eritrean people through a huge military machine. Thus, all the events of the preceding fifty years constitute the bedrock of our 25 years of independence.
How did the Eritrean people defeat successive global powers and their surrogates, who tried to stifle their natural right to independence, in this grossly asymmetric equation? This happened primarily because truth was on the side of the Eritrean people; and, because they were confronting their enemies on Eritrea’s soil. Furthermore, the balance of the equation shifted in favour of the truth and independence because the Eritrean people succeeded, in the fifty years of resilience, to bolster, phase by phase, their resistance. This occurred essentially because the Eritrean people managed to progressively invigorate their culture and value system of resistance; to augment their political awareness and refine their organizational capabilities; to upgrade their armaments and refine their operational plans. And, because the Eritrean people were able to draw appropriate lessons from subversive and treasonous activities of certain elements. The quarter century of resilience and development must thus be measured against the backdrop of these strong foundations.
What about the past 25 years of independence?
The right to independence that should have been exercised in 1941 became a reality fifty years later in the battle field without external succor and advocacy and through unparalleled resistance and the precious sacrifices of over 65,000 of Eritrea’s heroic martyrs. Subsequently, the people of Eritrea, rejecting the logic of force and adhering to justice and the rule of law, secured their sovereignty through a referendum. This imbued additional luster and double respect to its independence.
National reconstruction was naturally accorded highest priority. The people and government of Eritrea therefore embarked on constructive engagement with their regional partners in pursuit of this task. The overriding objective was to promote a conducive environment through the cultivation of friendly ties of cooperation first and foremost with the people of Ethiopia but also in a wider framework with the peoples of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Middle East. Coincidently, the end of the Cold War also presented promising prospects for a new world order. The regional and domestic visions charted out were not driven by sheer emotions and good will. They were indeed objective and achievable.
The pronounced aspirations and initiatives were at variance with what transpired. Why?
One of the unfortunate trends that entailed negative consequences to various developments in our region after the end of the Cold War, the advent of the new era and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, was the fateful decision of the US-led bloc that misconstrued the occasion as a historic opportunity to pursue policies of hegemony. This led to a distorted appraisal of contemporary events and trends. It was presumed that the world is now susceptible to unassailable US power. To monopolize the resources and wealth of the world, the US had to deter the emergence of any rival military power … a policy of containment had to be pursued against potential competitors… to control highest technology, the centers of knowledge and culture, as well as information centers and dissemination … to divide the world into regions and administer affairs through corrupt anchors and surrogates… by trampling on legality and the rule of law, reduce global and regional institutions to appendages and vehicles of overriding US policy… These policies and measures stemmed from a reckless ideology bordering on insanity. As a consequence, the seeds of conflict, upheaval and terrorism have proliferated to precipitate insidious crises, devastation and loss of life in our region and other parts of the world. The challenges and hostilities that we have faced in a quarter of century of our independence must be seen against the backdrop of this global reality.
In 1996, the “Hanish dispute” was concocted and instigated although such “controversy” was never raised in any forum prior to Eritrea’s independence. An appalling legal decision was given. Nonetheless the matter was brought to closure. To cut a long story short, the overarching objective was to embroil Eritrea in intractable border conflicts, weaken it through these entanglements and force it to succumb to hegemonic agendas. This does not merit additional elaboration.
In 1998, as a continuation of the Hanish agenda, the Badme border dispute, in effect another war, was instigated and declared through the blessing and direct meddling of Washington. The Badme dispute had otherwise no legal or political rationale. Unnecessary losses that defy logic were inculcated in two years. Around 19,000 Eritrean heroic citizens were martyred to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country. In 2002, after two years of litigation and arbitration, a “final and binding” decision was delivered. Yet again, international treaties, international law and the Arbitral Award were breached with the direct intervention of Washington. Sovereign Eritrean territories continue to be ransacked and destroyed for over 14 years under illegal occupation. This strategic regional conflict, which was no ordinary occurrence, accrued non-negligible dividends to the agenda of hegemony. On the one hand, it scuttled the friendship and alliance of the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples, and, obstructed the prospects for regional opportunities for change. On the other hand, it also secured a corrupt regime in Ethiopia that serves the agenda of hegemony. By scape-goating Eritrea, the TPLF clique also managed to secure US protection to defend it from the threat and wrath of the Ethiopian people.
In order to deflect attention from flagrant invasions and violations of the rule of law that occurred after the “final and binding” arbitral award, a “border dispute” was provoked in 2008 in order to entangle Eritrea in yet another conflict and incessant crisis. This was again another putative border dispute that had never cropped up since the independence of Djibouti in 1977. As part and parcel of the broader agenda, this so-called dispute has and continues to be unscrupulously instrumentalised as a tool of pressure and disinformation through intensive diplomatic and propaganda campaigns.
The addition of the Djibouti component in their arsenal did not quell the frustration of Eritrea’s detractors. In 2009, on the basis of a fictitious association with “Al-Shebaab”, a sanctions resolution was adopted against Eritrea on Christmas eve in the name of the UN Security Council through a dramatically orchestrated campaign of deceit, disinformation and pressure. The primary objective of this ploy was to deter the growth of Eritrea’s military capabilities for self-defense. It was also meant to widen the ground for political and diplomatic isolation of the country.
The greatest historical threat to Eritrea’s arch-enemies being the Eritrean people, “human trafficking” was employed to disperse and weaken Eritrea’s human capital. This policy was given paramount priority under the rubric of “granting asylum status” to Eritreans. The campaign was formalized with the official blessing of the US President. Organized crime of human trafficking thereby received additional impetus and gained traction through frantic and intensive propaganda and diplomatic campaigns. It is now being utilized as another tool for accusation of violation of human rights against Eritrea.
Economic sabotage is further resorted to on a constant basis with the aim of creating poverty and starvation to instigate crisis in the country. To this end, various obstacles are concocted to prevent the collection of the 2% rehabilitation and reconstruction tax as well as remittances. Various subterfuges are also conducted by Washington to paralyze and destroy the mining industry and discourage foreign investment and development assistance.
Psychological campaigns and media demonization of Eritrea as well as futile political machinations to create division and discord among our ranks are being ramped up to weaken our integrated resilience and developmental efforts. These are further bolstered by suffocating measures to prevent objective media portrayal of the reality in Eritrea.
I have tried to highlight, in a much condensed form, the indelible and repetitive truth of the past quarter century in all its ramifications and linkages. This is sadly a narrative of incisive hostility against the sovereignty and independence of Eritrea. What is more important however is how our endeavours for development are gauged against these hostilities and challenges; irrespective of their magnitude and manifestations.
Our culture and value system have been further enriched and reinforced. Our all-rounded resistance (legal, political, informational, diplomatic and National Security) has become enhanced more potent. In spite of our limited resources and incessant hurdles, our economic, social, cultural and developmental endeavours have undergone through various phases to scale new heights. (Although I have not delved into profound description of the sectoral developments). We are now poised to embark on greater and more expansive development programmes. Indeed, this is vividly demonstrated by the spectacular display of our people inside the country and abroad during these past festive days.
We have lived through and witnessed independence, resistance and development for the past quarter century. What are the prospects of the next quarter century?
In order to chart a clear vision and road-map for the future, I wish to underline that a complete and detailed documentation, sector by sector, of the past quarter century of resilience and development must be undertaken (at this still remains work in progress). From this day onwards, all legal, diplomatic, informational, and political campaigns that we conduct on all fronts and levels should be pursued with greater pace and better organization. As far as our broader future developmental campaign is concerned, which cannot be addressed in full on this occasion, big and expansive programmes will be as usual implemented with the full participation of our people. I assure you that we are ready to shoulder and fulfill our responsibilities.
Eternal Glory to our heroic Martyrs who secured our independence and sovereignty!
Dignity and Pride to the indomitable people of Eritrea!
Praise and Gratification to Eritrea’s Defence Forces; the forefront of resistance and development!
Victory to the Masses!