“Independence is also about the values that the country was founded upon. Eritreans have proven the real meaning of independence through their diverse yet united and harmonious state of being as a people.”
By Afwerki A.
When Eritrea got its independence 22 years ago I was old enough to understand the monumental nature of the event. I therefore appreciate and value our independence, and know the cost in blood and toil that led to it, and is still being invested for its preservation.
But the spirit of Independence Day is not only about Eritrea officially becoming an independent country. Independence for Eritreans has a far deeper meaning and significance than its lay dictionary definition. It’s about the thousands of brave souls who sacrificed their lives. It’s about the people’s resistance to successive colonial oppressions.
Independence is also about the values that the country was founded upon. Eritreans have proven the real meaning of independence through their diverse yet united and harmonious state of being as a people.
And that’s why this national holiday, one of huge historical significance, should be a cause worth celebrating.
The celebration of Independence Day in previous years was for me, as for every Eritrean, the festive and glorious occasion that comes around every year in the month of May.
This time around however I’ve experienced what I would consider a most meaningful and satisfying form of celebration.
Last week I had to travel to a remote village in the Southern Region for an unavoidable social obligation. The village residents are composed of both the Muslim and Christian faithful, living in harmony with each other – a trait that we as Eritreans have always been proud of.
On the eve of my departure (back home) the youngest girl (my grandniece) in the family I was visiting announced that she was performing for a school play the next day in connection with the 22nd Independence Day Anniversary, hinting that I should stay and attend.
Figuring one day more at the open countryside air (away from the hustle and bustle of the city) would do me no harm, I consented.
The school compound was adorned with creative embellishments pertaining to the auspicious occasion. The students were dressed in the colors of the national flag.
When the program commenced, the students presented different familiar songs lauding independence and the struggle waged to attain it. Then came the stage play we were waiting for.
My grandniece had the leading role, that of a mother proudly sending her only son to look for independence. The play portrayed the sacrifices Eritreans paid for independence and the noble gesture of looking after those families of martyrs.
The whole performance was arranged by a young student barely 15 years old and a handful of his classmates. As I spoke with one of the school teachers, I couldn’t help showing my admiration at the motivation of these young children.
They came up with the idea for the play. They didn’t stop at that. They convinced their elder brothers and sisters and peers to go around their community and the adjacent villages and help with the domestic diurnal affairs of those needy and incapacitated.
I had to ask what triggered them to be engaged in such actions that went far beyond their age or means.
Filmon Teklit is the mastermind of the mission. At 16 years of age he is the man of his house and responsible for his mother and younger sibling. His father having died in battle during the TPLF’s third offensive, his mother and his ailing grandparents had raised him to be a conscientious and meticulous young man, aware of his father’s legacy and his responsibilities.
“Ever since I realized that my father died to preserve the freedom brought to us by other martyrs, I always thought that I should also do something significant to remember them by and at the same time help those families whose children were martyred…”
I doubted if such words could ever come out of a child of that age. But I commended his insights.
At his age, I remember I jumped and danced in the streets with hundreds, or perhaps thousands of people. When I was still a teenager, I used to go out with my friends on the evening before Independence Day and would eagerly wait for the fireworks. And I still do. Because it’s one way I know of celebrating your freedom, your independence.
It was in the course of this seemingly small rural school play that I suddenly realized my sense of celebrating Independence Day. Who would disagree if I were to say that Filmon’s gallant behavior represents the true spirit of Independence Day?
Happy Independence Day Week!