Eritrea: 24 Years of Dignity

Forgiving but not forgetting
Pride and dignity: Independence indeed

By Sammy G.

THE month of May, like June, is a sacred month for Eritreans. On May 24th Eritreans will celebrate their 24th Independence Day Anniversary. As such, Eritreans revere the month of May, and more so, May 24th.

When it comes to defining Eritreans, dignity, like beauty, is truly in the eye of the beholder. The average Eritrean like me feels tremendous pride and dignity in Eritrea’s focused attitude and steady stride in the past 24 years against insurmountable odds. This sense of pride and dignity is not easily discernible to those who watch her from afar.

Despite the enormous focus on Eritrea, Western reporters often do not write a story on how or when Eritreans celebrate their hard-won independence; or what freedom actually means to an average Eritrean like me. Eritreans take great offense in such imbalance. As a result, Eritreans all over the world often are Eritrea’s Ambassadors and impromptu reporters particularly in the month of May, to express their pride and appreciation for the thousands who sacrificed so much to achieve & sustain Eritrea’s hard-won independence.

The immense hate campaign waged against Eritrea by mercenaries and ‘drive-by writers’, can get the unsuspecting reader overwhelmed by the deceptive or ignorant description of Eritrea as a cruel and inhospitable place. Many such mercenary writers and enemies of Eritrea shed crocodile tears, often lamenting on how extreme oppression and undignified livelihood has turned Eritrea into the “North Korea of Africa” or a “Giant Prison”. I read with angst when these so-called experts, often Wazungu, who never set foot to Eritrea, postulate about my beloved country as a “tiny” country “…where people lack basic rights and dignity accorded to humans”. It’s simply calculated campaign at demonizing one of the truly independent countries in Africa.

And I always say to myself, “Wait a minute here! How’s the atmosphere of real ‘oppression’ I sense in my own backyards like Baltimore, Sana’a, and Addis Ababa portrayed in the Western media? And how does the feeling of lack of dignity evaporate the moment I fly past Baltimore, Sana’a and Addis and land at Asmara international airport!?”

And when I’m in Eritrea, I would run into a few Asmarinos with grievances over government policies or shortcomings. But I’ve never come across a soul that lamented about the lack of dignity and discrimination in Eritrea. But I’ve come across many Americans, Ethiopian-Americans and Yemeni-Americans who bitterly lament the lack of dignity in their respective homelands and adopted homelands! Yet the same mercenary journalist would never describe Baltimore, Sana’a or Addis Ababa as a “Giant Prison”.

Because dignity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder! My beautiful Eritrea, to me, is the land of dignity. But that aura of dignity about Eritrea is described as searing oppression by the likes a former police-reporter-turned-Eritrea-expert Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times. Of course, parachute journalists like Gettleman might have set foot on Eritrea once or twice, which certainly should not qualify them as experts except in Africa. Well, if they are interested in reporting the truth, Gettleman and his ilk should spend more time on the ground in Eritrea and see what 24 years of dignity looks like!

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