By Ribka Zekarias, http://www.eritreacompass.com
Politicians define Political Culture as a cluster composed of political beliefs, attitudes, ideas, behaviors, and general perceptions towards a government and a political system. The attitudes and actions of citizens depend greatly on their political culture. Political Culture is shaped through time and education, public events, and celebration of the past. I believe that we Eritreans have developed a very distinctive and significant political culture, which developed through time with the long struggle against different political powers, to achieve an independent state.
We share the love for our country, respect for our defense forces, determination for our national development, and trust for our leaders. The strong participation of the Eritreans in the diaspora in the national development shows how well politically cultured and connected they are with their national identity. History and tradition play a great role to this development.
Eritrea achieved its national identity through the continuous struggle and opposition aimed against the Italian, British and Ethiopian rule. At the beginning, during the 1940s, groups were identified by their communal, religious, linguistic and ethnic identities. Whereas, after the long struggle for liberation, a single Eritrean identity has been achieved. Eritreans developed a political culture that has strong beliefs in freedom, justice, equality, and independence.
The Italian colonial rule created a condition, which aggravated and brought together Eritreans from their scattered settlements. Urbanization played a great role in creating a common political understanding while the different changes in the infrastructure influenced the living style of Eritreans. The successive occupation of Eritrea by foreign powers contributed to the strengthening of the feelings of nationalism.
The direct and indirect administrative methods of the Italian rule facilitated the development of modern administrative awareness in the different regions. The scattered society, which had diverse modes of living was brought to one common place- the cities. Therefore, the society started to have common beliefs, ideas and perceptions of a state and government. Having a common enemy created a common political culture. Urban and rural elites who viewed the presence of foreigners as the source of economic, social and political instability got together to fight against invaders. Social unrest, famine and urbanization created an excuse for the urban dwellers to unite.
The long struggle against common enemies brought the different ethnic, regional and religious groups to a common end, ‘independence’. Hence the culture of co-existing and respecting each other’s difference developed admirably. Similar commitments were seen during the periods of the British occupation, federation and annexation with the Ethiopian imperial rule. However, a very substantial development in the political culture of Eritreans was realized during the armed struggle Eritreans had an incredible love and loyalty to their vision of liberation. It is that determination that had made independence a reality. The struggle has played a great role in the political socialization of the mass. Political socialization is the process of learning of shared political values, beliefs and general assumptions about politics. It helps understand, accept and approve of the existing political system. It also helps the central values of the political culture to be transmitted from one generation to another. Hence the struggle for liberation became a vital agent of political socialization. Eritreans all over the world united to fight against the powerful army of the time. The strong political culture shared by Eritreans was catalyzed by the strong desire to attain independence. Even after independence through different methods the political awareness is in a process. There are many agents that can be used to politically socialize the population like the family, school, mass media, public events and memorials.
One of the commonly shared values, beliefs and understanding of Eritreans is the great pride on our national identity. We know the price that was paid for our nationality. Another shared culture is the culture of honoring and showing great respect to our martyrs. We inherit, from our martyrs, the responsibility to secure our national identity and safeguard our sovereignty. The national day of independence is one of the most celebrated days. It is the day that we forward our excessive gratitude for our independence. The national festivals also reflect our national unity and peaceful co- existence.
Political culture plays a great role in Nation-Building. The long-held attitudes towards our government, political system, women, and different ethnic and religious groups encourage us to participate in nation-building.
To conclude, I proudly say that Eritrea is a great country in which diverse religions, ethnic groups, cultures, and languages live peacefully and respectfully sharing a common identity and goal. Despite all the economical limitations and hindrances, regional political instabilities, and western conspiracies on our political system, all citizens participate in the national development. Time will tell the history of our struggle, unity and success in creating a prosperous nation and stable region in the horn of Africa. The struggle for political independence has continued similar to the struggle for economic emancipation. We indeed will excel more than our expectations.
“The fatherland cannot endure without freedom, nor freedom without virtue, nor virtue without citizens; you will have everything if you form citizens; if you do not, you will have nothing but nasty slaves, beginning with the chiefs of the state. Now to form citizens is not the work of a single day; and to have them be citizens when they are grown, they have to be taught when they are children.” Rousseau