Eritrea: Time for Engagement, Not Isolation

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engagement not isolation
On June 23, 2016, U.S. Chief of Mission Louise Mazel invited some Asmara based diplomats to a dinner party at his residence to honour the visiting top U.S. diplomat Dr. Shannon L Smith. Present was Ambassador Iqbal Jhazbhay (South Africa), Ambassador Christian Manhal (EU), Ambassador Andreas Zimmer (Germany), (Credit: Amba. Iqbal Jhazbhay)

By Ibrahim Abdelnour,

In May 1991 Eritrea won the hard fought war of Independence. It was hoped a lasting peace will flourish in the region when the longest war in the continent ended with victory for Eritrea and the Eritrean people.

That marked the birth of a new nation after three decades of armed struggle against an expansionist neighbor, Ethiopia. After the hard fought and hard won freedom, the leaders took a pragmatic political decision and conduct a referendum to give the Eritrean people a chance to determine their future. The referendum took place under the auspices and with observers from the world community. Moe than 99.8% voted for independence. With this vote, Eritreans ensured the birth of an independent and a self-reliant nation. The achievement of self-reliance was one of the key goals of the struggle for independence.

Eritrea officially declared its independence on May 24, 1993. The former arch foe Ethiopia and the new Eritrean nation initially gave a hopeful sign that both peoples would live in peace as neighbors. The regime currently in Addis-Ababa came to power with the help of the Eritrean struggle. The latter drove their tanks and military artilleries to the capital of Ethiopia, leading to the collapse of military government of Ethiopia after nearly two decades in power. The peace the Eritreans enjoyed at the time recorded visible progress in the political and economic fields.

At that time Eritrea’s economy and infrastructure were almost non-existent. Eritrea has to start from scratch building its economic, social and political structure as a nation.

Eritrea started to work hard on rebuilding the infrastructure, renovate roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, health centers, schools and other necessities. The progress was remarkable. The change was visible.

On the political arena, Eritrea started drafting its constitution with full public participation within the country and among the diaspora.

It was at this juncture of the reconstruction that the challenge was shifted to focus on defending the new nation. It was non but the once comrades-in-struggle and those the people and government invested high hopes to be partners for good neighborhood who sold their souls and minds to ignite a war against Eritrea in an attempt “if possible” to reverse the independence of the new nation or otherwise to change the government. Ethiopia officially started the war in May 1998. The owners of this evil and ill-advised motive are the minority regime who came to power with the full help of Eritrea.

The war caused heavy causalities and damaged economic progress on both sides. But also the path of full democracy that Eritrea was aiming to implement had to be postponed to the right moment.

Although the war officially ended under the “Algiers Peace Agreement” penned by both countries as final and binding, and the boundary between the two nations was delineated by an international body, the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC),Ethiopia has refused to implement it. This has become a hurdle for the new country to put undivided focus on nation building. As a result, it had to build the nation while at the same time guarding its sovereignty.

The Challenges that Eritrea recognized:

  • Eritrea as stated above is challenged by an unwanted war from a neighboring country led by a minority regime, which until this moment is still beating a war drum
  • The unfortunate UNSC’s Sanctions imposed on the new nation was simply politically motivated based on a lie fabricated by a UN monitoring group, accusing Eritrea of helping the Somali Al-Shabbab group, though later the UN admitted in their own words that “ there exists no proof of Eritrea aiding Al-Shabab.” However, the UNSC has yet to lift these illegal sanctions
  • Adding insult to injury the UNHRC has accused Eritrea of violating human rights. Eritrea’s 30 year struggle was to restore the God given human right of its citizens
  • Eritrea is also giving full attention to the completion of the Constitution, putting into consideration the current and future situation of the country
  • Eritrea has done more than the expected in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
  • Modernizing its financial and economical vehicles within the country and overseas
  • Modernizing its land, air and sea ports
  • Modernizing its Power generators in eco-friendly
  • Getting more engaged in global political and economic arenas, although it’s doing its part as witnessed in bringing lasting peace within the sisterly country of Sudan between the government of Sudan and the Eastern region fighters, in Darfur and Sudan – South Sudan case, as well as in the Red Sea region and more.

The Eritrean government has extended its invitations to friends and partners who can lend a hand in the struggle to realize the Eritrean dream.

The challenges Eritrea is facing are workable and doable. As one of the gallant fighters said in one occasion “If we were able to rise from the ashes of war to become a nation…. Nothing is impossible as long as there is a will.”

The world community should understand Eritrea better and keep engaging with the government.