Eritrea Celebrates a Quarter Century of Independence

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diaspora Independence day marching
Thousands of yesterday’s refugees have returned back to Eritrea to celebrate the 25th independence anniversary, marching enthusiastically under two flags: one that of their country of origin and another of their host country!

By Colette Braeckman | for Le Soir,

While Eritrea is known to send every year thousands of young people to try their luck on the dangerous roads of exile, this time it is towards Asmara that the additional flights had to be provided in because of the crowds!

Coming from the US, Canada, all European countries especially Italy and the Scandinavian countries, thousands of Eritreans in the Diaspora were keen to return home to celebrate the 25th anniversary of independence of the youngest African states. Yesterday refugees, very critical of a regime that imposes unlimited “national service” after 18 months of actual military service, many young people, now bi-national, had repeated the journey in the other direction and they marched enthusiastically under two flags, that of their country of origin and that of their host country!

This quarter century of independence was the occasion for a sober party, cheerful, where the independent Eritrea showed that she was best: musicians and dancers from all regions of the country, a multicultural face where Christians of Highlands rub smoothly Muslim Sudanese plains, where the various national languages taught in schools are superimposed without rivalry.

But above all, before the parade of young and before an impressive choreography reminiscent of similar events in China or Korea, Eritrea had wanted to remember the essential: the small country of 6 million inhabitants is still a nation on war foot. Here one has forgotten that it was by arms, after thirty years of struggle, that the independence was won at the highest price, tens of thousands of deaths, the exodus of 900,000 people, the departure of last Italian colonists ….

Instead of presenting the achievements of the regime, however real, in education and health, among others, President Isaias Afeworki, absolute ruler of the country since independence, preferred to give a history lesson to younger generations. He reminded the Italian colonization, annexation by Ethiopia, the fifty years of armed struggle to finally reach an independence that was never really accepted by Ethiopia.

The stern face behind his sunglasses, the always straight silhouette Issaias Afeworki remained a warlord, a sort of helmsman deserts and highlands. Again, he tried to mobilize his people pointing enemies that seem to be eternal, the Ethiopian neighbor, who had never given up his win access to the sea via the Eritrean port of Assab or Masswa, and, behind Addis Ababa, the real opponent, that is to say, the United States, although committed, today as yesterday, wanting to break the resistance of a country decided to refuse a certain world order.

After recalling the battles, international arbitration regarding a disputed border, the president denounced the recent attacks, carried out in other areas: disinformation and asylum policy. He assured that it is with the blessing of the U.S. President that Eritreans are being almost automatically grant refugee status when they arrive in the host country. This opening, coupled with misinformation and “demonization” of Eritrea in the international press would, according to him, allowed the development of “human trafficking” and the proliferation of smugglers…

This siege mentality is marked by low diplomatic representation in the ceremonies commemorating the independence, only marked by the presence of a large Sudanese delegation.

However, Eritrea has no shortage of prospects and could see the “friends” shoving border in time to come: besides the discovery of significant mineral deposits, oil could soon be operated on the banks of the Red Sea. Dominant ceremonies, a huge poster also showed the two axes of the future development of the country: cultivated fields and offshore oil rig

Until this country still cultivating a haughty isolation resume its place on the international scene, it is in a “self between” happy and friendly as the inhabitants of Asmara partied alongside their parents in the diaspora returned laden with trunks and gifts: during these exceptional days of installed podiums in the main streets have hosted dozens of singers and musicians, all dressed children watched late into the night, sitting in a small bar behind his beer, Haile, a “veteran” showed us the reduced scarring Keren and Massawa in the 80, saying that this fight there, which he sacrificed his youth, was worth and he regretted nothing … * A software translation from French

25th independence day eritrea
Celebrating a quarter century of independence