Last May 24 marked Eritrea’s 21st birthday as an independent nation. It was on May 24 of 1991 that Eritrea finally became a free country after 30 years of protracted war of independence against Ethiopia. On that day, Eritrea’s liberation army marched into Asmara, after defeating Col Mengistu Hailemariam’s army of occupation and forcing its remnants to surrender en mass.
As is the customary practice each year, this important occasion was celebrated with tremendous pomp by Eritreans all over the world. Eritrea’s independence-day is an occasion that all Eritreans hold very dear to their hearts and await, each year, with great excitement and anticipation. The countdown to the big day always starts early, as do the celebrations and festivities. And when May 24 arrives there is rupture of joy and a spontaneous flow of genuine brotherhood and camaraderie among all Eritreans, as they celebrate the momentous occasion with boundless energy and enthusiasm.
In true Eritrean fashion, the celebrations feature many of Eritrea’s signatory trademarks: rich cultural shows representing Eritrea’s nine nationalities; outdoor and indoor concerts by popular entertainers; dance parties in cavernous halls that overflow with irrepressible merrymakers; various outdoor events, including group outings, picnics and sports activities, form the highlights of most of the festivities. And to top all this, there always is a generous supply of delicious Eritrean food to satisfy every reveller’s appetite.
Whether it be on this special occasion, or any other regular day, there is one aspect of Eritrean reality that should not pass unmentioned: this is the ever- present recognition by all Eritreans of the ultimate sacrifices that were paid by their martyred compatriots to make this independence day possible. Thus, even as they celebrate the joyous occasion with boundless energy and unrestrained abandon, Eritreans are ever mindful of the staggering cost their country had paid for its independence and the supreme sacrifices paid by their martyred heroes and heroines.
While the foregoing pretty much sums up the genuine spirit of satisfaction and jubilation with which Eritreans normally celebrate their country’s birthday, on this particular 21st independence-day celebrations, there was an added feature, which provided a sombre reminder of the endless and undeserved injustices that have been meted out to their country by the US and its Western friends throughout the last decade-and-half. Thus, this year, in parallel with the celebrations, Eritreans staged protest rallies in several major cities of the world, attracting particular attention to the two American-engineered unjust sanctions that were placed on Eritrea in 2009 and 2011.
One of the largest protest rallies, involving thousands of participants, took place on May 25 in the US’s capital, including in front of the White House, where Eritreans took Barak Obama to task for his administration’s singular role in sponsoring and adopting both of the sanctions against their country. ‘Obama, Where’s The Change!?’ the crowd repeatedly chanted. This is an important and valid question that the American president, who was elected on the strength of his over-repeated promises of ‘change,’ has yet to answer. What Eritreans find most gulling is that after struggling and bleeding for their independence for thirty long years, and finally winning it, bloody-minded Western governments, such as Obama’s, would callously go out of their way to pave the path ahead with jugged stones and rocks.
Eritrea’s independence was not given to it on a silver platter, as was the case with many other countries. Saying that Eritrea’s independence was won through a bitter and protracted liberation struggle may be a fitting prelude to any discussion of the subject, but the full story of Eritrea’s extraordinary real-life struggles and triumphs, studded with the exceptional valour and supreme sacrifices of the men and women who fought in Eritrea’s two wars, could never be fully told in one or two, or even several presentations. Especially today, when denial of the truth and promotion of the untruth of all things Eritrean, seem to be the rule in Western mainstream media, Eritreans do not expect their true story to be told anytime soon. Perhaps someday, in a better world and better times – when and if truth and journalistic integrity return to today’s much-compromised and disgraced Western media — Eritrea’s epic story might not only be widely talked about, but, perhaps, even made into a deservedly riveting film or two. Until then, however, the splendid spectacle and color that accompany Eritrea’s annual independence-day celebration by Eritreans will have to suffice.
And how do Eritreans view the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, particularly with regard to their country? The ready answer, ‘very unfavourably!’, may be an understatement. As the May 25 protests in front of the White House clearly showed, the general consensus among Eritreans seems to be that any foreign policy changes that Obama may have made, especially where Eritrea is concerned, have made him look decidedly worse, not better, than his predecessor. For Eritrea, things have undeniably gotten worse than they ever were, with the coming to power of this president. Eritrean-Americans were swayed enough by his campaign promises of a policy of peace, justice and reason, to go out and rally behind his campaign. They hoped that the days of his predecessor’s ‘shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later’ brand of US foreign policy would be history as soon as Obama stepped into the White House. Thus, they dared to gamble on the side of hope and optimism and went out in full strength to support his election. Many actually gave their valuable time and energy to his campaign. And quite conceivably, the great majority of Eritrean-Americans who are eligible to vote may have voted for him. Now, they are shocked to see that the only things their beloved Eritrea has got out of this president have been sharply increased hostilities and what looks like an incredibly intractable and obsessive antagonism.
The two illegal sanctions that were brought on Eritrea, solely through the malicious machinations of the Obama Administration, seem to exemplify the elevated excesses of US arrogance-of-power that is in display everywhere. Eritrea had done nothing, whatsoever, to deserve these sanctions. Yet because the US feels that it holds the fate of small nations in its hands, the Obama Administration went out of its way to arrange and orchestrate the sponsoring and passing of the two sanctions by the Security Council. Not a single shred of concrete evidence, proving Eritrea’s culpability, or otherwise justifying the sanctions in some way, was presented. The wholly malice-driven sanctions were passed solely based on a manufactured set of false accusations engineered and pushed by the Obama Administration.
These illegal sanctions, which the US managed to get passed through a lot of shady backdoor maneuvering and the help of some complicit elements of the Security Council, had two aims: Resolution 1907 (passed in Dec. 2009), was designed to fatally weaken Eritrea’s defense capability by denying it the right to purchase defensive weapons, while leaving, Ethiopia, its next-door neighbour and avowed enemy, free to acquire all the offensive weapons it wanted. Resolution 2023 (passed in Dec. 11), was intended to bring Eritrea to its knees by economically strangulating it, thus turning it into a destitute nation. Among the many abominable things the Obama Administration proposed in its original draft proposal relating to Resolution 2023, there was an article that demanded the placing of a world-wide ban, prohibiting Eritreans from sending a little of their own hard-earned income home to help their needy families. Can anything possibly be more callous?
The Obama Administration did not manage to get full satisfaction on Sanctions # 2 (Resolution 2023). Faced with stiff opposition from some saner elements in the Security Council, it had to reluctantly settle for a less-biting, watered-down version of its original proposal. One can safely assume that this unexpected reversal of fortunes would have stunned and miffed Obama’s stridently hawkish chief ‘executioner’ at the UN, Susan Rice, who has shown an almost unnatural interest in persecuting Eritrea from the moment she took up her post.
People who have not closely observed the pattern of US behaviour around the world, especially after the end of World War II, may want to know what Eritrea had done to merit this kind of extremely unyielding hostility from the Americans. The short and simple answer is: Nothing! Eritrea has never wished any harm on the US or any other nation. US/Western propaganda spinners have weaved endless dark stories about Eritrea, some of which portray it as an ill-tempered, prickly nation that loves to pick fights with everyone in sight. However, such claims have no basis in truth and are just part-and-parcel of the extensive and relentless propaganda campaign that the US and its Western partners have waged against this innocent country for a considerable number of years, now.
Although the tempo of the US’s anti-Eritrean drive may have increased with the Obama Administration’s election to power and its sponsoring of the two illegal sanctions, US/Western malevolence towards Eritrea is not a new phenomenon. In fact the US/Western propaganda establishment has been on a frenzied campaign of subversion and defamation aimed at destabilizing Eritrea, for nearly fifteen years now. In many ways, Obama’s ‘today’ is just the same as Bush’s ‘yesterday’ and Clinton’s ‘before-yesterday’. For example, one cannot discern much difference between today’s Susan Rice, yesterday’s Jendayi Frazer and before-yesterday’s Susan Rice when one looks at the single-minded and irrational spirit of vindictiveness with which they all pursued Eritrea’s persecution. Even the languages all three (well, actually two!) used to lambast Eritrea with, seem to share the same unwarranted level of virulence and bellicosity.
As might be expected, during this extended period of anti-Eritrean propagandizing, probably every mode of subversion that the best minds in the US/Western psyop armoury can think of has been tried. The aim has always been to orchestrate what is nowadays commonly known as ‘regime change’. Overthrowing Eritrea’s current leadership and replacing it with a ‘puppet regime’, formed from among the small contingent of Eritrean collaborators in the Diaspora, has been the singular aim of US/Western governments for many years. The standard US/Western ‘how to’ rule for taking over control of a non-compliant Third World country, calls for first, sowing a hitherto-unknown chaos within it, thus destroying its peace and stability, then imposing its pre-packaged ‘Transition Government’ on the poor, newly re-colonized country. This is the rough outline of the standard ‘modus operandi’ for implementing a ‘regime change’, a la US, which most people have become familiar with, by now.
The plan for Eritrea, which closely follows this model, aims to remodel the country into a dutiful ‘vassal state’ that will faithfully serve US/Western geo-political and economic interests in the African Horn region far into the future. And if the US could have its wish, this ‘vassal state’, aka Eritrea, would be bullied into line by none other than America’s chief ‘Horn Enforcer’ (and Eritrea’s never-resting enemy), the murderous minority regime in Ethiopia. Can this US/Western plan work? The answer to this question cannot be more self-evident: if it could, then why didn’t it succeed, during the fifteen long years it has been rabidly pursued?
Regardless of the futility of their agenda, the US and its Western partners have gathered and mobilized an impressive propaganda machinery, involving a significant amount of human and material resources, along with their best ‘tried-and-tested’ strategies, to try and bring Eritrea down. As part of this sizeable propaganda arsenal, various intelligence services, the media, ‘aid organizations’, so-called ‘humanitarian’ and ‘human rights’ organizations, would-be foreign affairs ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’, former and serving diplomats, a handful of traitorous elements in Eritrea’s Diaspora communities, and others, have been pressed into service, organized and deployed to cover every aspect of this relentless campaign of destabilization.
One of the main focuses of this effort has been to try and isolate Eritrea from the international community by painting it as a tyrannical ‘pariah state’ that should be shunned and ostracized by the whole world. Thus, a vicious and ceaseless smear campaign that has aimed at tarnishing the image of the country and its top leadership and government has gone on in parallel with a plethora of other subversive activities, throughout the lengthy period that Eritrea has been targeted for a ‘regime change’. On the other hand, for just as long as this obscene campaign of deceit and lies has gone on, Eritreans living in all parts of the world have thoroughly denounced and exposed it for the utter farce that it is, by holding popular rallies in major cities of the world and vigorously defending their country.
Suppose we were to ignore the ugly, false pictures that the US/Western propaganda machinery paints, and take a peek at Eritrea’s real image, what would we see? Well, anyone who has been feasting exclusively from the US/Western propaganda network’s menu for all this years may hesitate to believe what he/she sees, which is understandable. However, truth is truth and it will always shine and sparkle and no trained or amateur propagandists can block it from view indefinitely. What one sees in a real picture of Eritrea is a healthy and joyful place that is very pleasing to the eye and appealing to all of the healthy and positive instincts of any decent human being. Judged by any standard of acceptability one can, without exaggeration, say that this is a decent and fair-minded country that works very hard to cultivate mutually respectful and friendly relations with any nation that shares its philosophy of peaceful and cooperative co-existence.
There is more to Eritrea than what was hinted in the foregoing paragraph. Eritrea is not only a friendly and peace-loving country it is also one that is imbued with many admirable qualities that make it a strong and assured nation with a lot of promise and potential. Eritrea is a hard-working, creative, dynamic, progressive, confident, determined and, perhaps most importantly, united as one. The fact that Eritrea has withstood and overcome one of the most vicious subversive campaigns that have ever been waged against any country, and that it has stood tall and continued its unbroken march towards a brighter future, bears unquestionable testimony to its true strength as a nation. The undeniable truth for all to see is that fifteen years of unremitting, destructive campaigns and a horrific border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, that was aided and abetted by the US and its Western allies, have yielded absolutely zero result to Eritrea’s enemies, in terms of affecting its health and well-being. On the contrary, the trials and tribulations that Eritrea was forced to go through have strengthened its unity and resolve even further, making it more determined than ever to succeed against any difficult odds that may confront her in the future. As we speak, what we see is a supremely confident Eritrea, progressing, thriving, and taking extra-large strides towards a brighter future, thanks to the indomitable spirit and unity of its people.
What has been said, so far, makes it sufficiently clear that Eritrea has done nothing to provoke the kind of unflagging animosity that the US has shown it. There is nothing that Eritrea has done to the US that can even remotely be cited as justifiable cause for this intractable animosity. However, there are two salient aspects of Eritrea character and stance, which though perfectly normal and legitimate, seem to have ruffled the US’s imperious feathers. The problem is entirely with the US’s sense of superiority over all other nations, especially small nations. This sense of superiority over everyone and everything outside the USA, seems to assume that it can go anywhere it wants and set the agenda for that place in a fashion that suits its own purposes. It is in the US’s nature to shove whatever country dares to show signs of real independence and assertiveness onto the wrong side of it, where Eritrea finds itself at the moment.
The US expects obedience and compliance from all nations, but especially small nations. Just the mere sign of a small nation showing some confidence and pride in itself, will rub the US the wrong way and attract a noticeable growl from it. When a truly confident small nation such as Eritrea, shows some real gumption and can-do attitude, backed by quite a bit of real practical action, then the growl can quickly turn into a menacing threat and, soon, a pursuit with intent to kill or cause serious harm. Unlike many other nations in Africa, and certain other regions of the world, Eritrea has shown that it has what it takes to stand on its own feet and be counted. It is proud enough and confident enough not to hand over control of its daily life and destiny to US/Western authority. Eritrea wants to remain ‘master of its own house’ at all times, therefore, it jealously guards its hard-earned independence, for which it had fought and bled for thirty long, bitter years. And quite naturally, it will not negotiate over its independence for anything or under any circumstances.
On the other side of the equation, we have the US and its Western partners, which are always looking to make lowly ‘vassals’ out of small Third World nations. This is the role which they, in their supreme wisdom, think Eritrea and every small, run-of-the-mill African nation should accept without much ado. Eritrea, however, believes in its divine right to decide what it wants to be, and to chart its own destiny; thus, it would have none of all these. This, in a nutshell, is one of the two main bones of contention between the US and its Western friends on the one hand, and Eritrea on the other.
There is another thing about Eritrea that the US and its Western partners are not happy about: this is the fact that Eritrea strongly believes in the principle of ‘self-reliance’, on which path it has determinedly proceeded since its independence. The sticking point for the US/Western allies is that Eritrea is proving, through its own convincing successes, that its ‘self-reliance’ mantra is the only reliable path to real economic and social progress. An undeniable proof of this is that, last year, when throughout the Horn Region, and as far south as Kenya, many millions of people were faced with a serious famine threat that required massive outside food-aid to stave off starvation, Eritrea was the only country that was unaffected by the threat. The reason for this eye-opening development was that, by last year, Eritrea had practically achieved ‘food security’, after doggedly pursuing this goal for many years through its policy of ‘self-reliance’. Thus, when last year’s famine made its unwelcome appearance, Eritrea was fully prepared for it and therefore managed to remain unaffected by it. This is all extremely good and gratifying for Eritrea and its people, but it is not at all a welcome development for the US and its rich Western allies.
The rich Western countries, which do not want to see African countries break away from perennial dependency on their handouts, strongly resent the impressive successes that Eritrea has registered with its ‘self-reliance’ policy. These successes are not only in ‘food security’ matters, but have been registered in many other sectors, as well. And they were all achieved with little or no direct help of, or involvement from the West, which irks them to no end! The West does not want to see Eritrea become a model of real progress and development achieved on the basis of the principle of ‘self-reliance’, for other African countries. They do not want other African countries to get inspired by Eritrea and to follow in its footsteps. Thus, it is not a coincidence that no sooner had Eritrea earnestly started out on its path of ‘self-reliance’, and begun declining most of the eagerly-offered, interwoven loans from the West, than Western criticism and ridicule of its policy of ‘self-reliance’ started to come in, in thick and heavy doses. Despite their feigned pronouncements of concern for Africa’s deplorable state of extreme poverty and want in the midst of plenty, what the West really wants to see is a permanently poverty-stricken Africa that is overladen with unpaid debt (by which to hold it for ransom), and poor nations strung all over its length and breadth that literally exist from-hand-to-mouth, if that. And the more African nations there are that cannot subsist without the West’s meagre handouts the better! This status quo suits the rich ‘haves’ of the so-called First World exceedingly well, because it is the only way they can assure themselves a permanent hold on Africa and its unlimited natural resources. Maintaining this status quo, by any means possible would assure their own peoples’ continued prosperity and good life indefinitely. If a fitting expression was needed to describe this callous position, it would be: ‘Living the good life off Africa’s miseries and God-gifted riches’!
Unfortunately for the US-led rich-and-affluent West, who seem to think that they can keep the status quo going forever, even us, supposedly simple-minded and naive Africans are, slowly-but-surely, beginning to catch on to their whole nefarious ‘master-plan’ for our continent. We were, perhaps, expected to remain forever oblivious to this ‘master plan’. But, how can we possibly remain unaware of it, when they keep flaunting it everywhere around us with such reckless indiscretion? But we, Africans, have one big problem, which is the fact that our continent has been its own worst enemy for as long as most of us remember. Just looking at some of our leaders says it all! Some of these leaders seem to have been bitten a bit deeper than some others, by the ‘bug of subservience’ to outside interests. With these kinds of leaders, what are the odds of Africa asserting itself and regaining some of its self-respect and dignity, which is a necessary first step on the path to breaking away from ‘slavery’ and poverty? Well, one can always hope! Eritrea has no leaders that have been bitten by any ‘bugs’ of the said sort. The abuses and rough treatment that have become their daily fare at the hands of the US and its Western friends is sufficient proof of that!
To sum up, thus, the two main reasons that the US/Western partners see Eritrea as a threat worth pulling all the stops to destroy are a) its fiercely independent stance that will not kowtow to Western ‘authority’, or subordinate its national interests to that of the West, and b) its potential to be a role model that could lead African countries along the ‘undesired’ (in the eyes of the West) path of genuine progress and self-dependency. These are the two main reasons that have driven the US and its Western allies to go to the absolute limits of their capabilities, short of direct military aggression, in their efforts to engineer and accomplish Eritrea’s downfall. The enemies of Eritrea do not even just want it to fail; they want it to fail in some spectacular fashion, so they can say to the other African leaders: ‘See, we were expecting this! No poor, small African country can make it on its own. There has to be foreign aid!’
All this, notwithstanding, Eritrea has stayed its course, unconcerned and unperturbed by the unholy forces of chaos that are scheming and plotting its downfall. Eritrea became independent against all odds, and it has succeeded in preserving its independence against all odds. Not only that, but, even in this extremely trying circumstances, it has managed to record extraordinary achievements in all fields of its national development endeavours. At this very moment, Eritrea is stronger, more determined, more focused and more united than ever.
Indeed, Eritreans have plenty of reasons for celebrating, not the least of which is that they have proved to themselves and the entire world that they are true survivors who have been tested and retested by fire a little too many times, but have emerged triumphant each time. Folks, who know Eritrea’s history and character well, even if they might not be Eritreans, will not begrudge this brave nation the fittingly grand style in which its sons-and-daughters celebrate its birthday.