(EritreaAt24 Series: May 3rd) Eritrea at 24 -- It Still Rises
May 24, 1991, a sacred day in the annals of Eritrean history, symbolizes the determination that no one or nothing can stop this young nation from rising again-- no matter how daunting the challenges are.
It is also a sacred day in the history of all those who rise, in the face of overwhelming odds, to determine their own destiny and defend their basic rights. This is a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit in the quest for freedom against all odds. This day embodies what the essence of Eritrea represents: the spirit of unflinching determination, unwavering dedication and, when necessary, unyielding and principled defiance.
May 24 also marks the birth of an independent nation that many had solemnly predicted would never happen. The birth of independent Eritrea took a long, twisted and tortuous road because the Eritrean people were unwilling to compromise on their basic right to determine their own destiny. It began to emerge soon after the total and complete destruction of the Ethiopian army became obvious when the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) liberated Asmara, the Eritrean capital on this historic day. This was a birth that many had predicted would not see the light of day, a birth that many others hoped would not happen. In fact, there was nothing the superpowers and others didn’t do to derail the emergence of an independent and sovereign Eritrea. The war was routinely described as a David-vs-Goliath matchup, reflecting the huge financial, military and diplomatic support external forces continually supplied the successive rulers of Ethiopia mostly to quash the aspirations of the Eritrean people. However, the EPLF, guided by a policy driven by the principle of self-reliance—relying almost entirely on its people and the country’s meager resources, overcame one obstacle after another, and defeated the huge, well-financed Ethiopian Goliath and triumphantly entered Asmara, the Eritrean capital, in the morning of May 24, 1991.
May 24 also marks the end of more than a century of domination of modern-day Eritrea by external powers, small and big, starting with the Italians, who set it up as their first colony in Africa in 1990. The Italians were forced to give up the colony following their defeat in 1941 by the Allied Powers in World War II. They were followed by the British who administered the territory until 1952 when, under the cover of the a UN resolution, the Western powers, led by the United States, decided to hand it over to their client state Ethiopia camouflaged as a federation. Then the Ethiopian monarchy moved quickly to stamp out Eritrea’s budding institutions of democracy and then proceeded to formally abrogate the federal arrangement and annex the territory sparking an armed struggle in 1961, marking the beginning of the long, bloody road that eventually led to May 24, 1991.
However, May 24 is also a day of renewal, a day of recommitment to ensure the realization of the promise enshrined in the spark that launched the armed struggle on September 1, 1961, and the solemn pledge given to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the Eritrean people can determine their own destiny and enjoy what May 24 represents.