“The Eritrean people have learnt to do their own things in their own ways unlike most countries who despite having such unique features, they would prefer to adopt the West’s way of doing things which has ended up being a disaster.” – Francis Atwoli, parliamentarian and Chairman of the Trade Union Federation of Eastern Africa,
The remark was made during a speech by Bro. Francis Atwoli, MBS, a Parliamentarian, Chairman of the Trade Union Federation of Eastern Africa, TUFEA and Secretary General of Central Organisation of Trade Union, COTU (Kenya), on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of Eritrea’s armed struggle for independence celebration in Nairobi.
Transcript of his speech follows:
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Your Excellency Ambassador Saleh Umar, The Ambassador of the State of Eritrea;
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors and High Commissioners present;
Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Trade Union Federation of Eastern Africa, The Central Organization of Trade Unions and all the workers that the two organizations represent to be with you today during this important celebration in the calendar of the State of Eritrea.
Let me take this opportunity to sincerely appreciate your invitation and pass my warmest regards to all the Eritrean people on this important day.
Brothers and Sisters, our gathering here presents us with yet another opportunity to reflect on the struggle that the people of Eritrea had to endure as well as the achievements already realized since the country’s Independence on the 24th May 1991.
I have personally visited Eritrea on a number of occasions and I can affirm to you that Eritrea portends of a country with just so great a potential and despite having one of the least population on the continent of slightly over 5 million people, its life expectancy is rated at 60 years which is exceptional by any world standards.
The country’s economy is rated second to none on the continent with its legal tender, the Nakfa rated as one of the strongest on the continent with a US Dollar equivalent to 15 Nakfa a rate that is far much higher than most African countries that attained independence over 50 years ago.
Brothers and Sisters, among the world’s Presidents, Eritrean President His Excellency Isaias Afeweorki is the only President whose government recognizes and respects with dignity the Labour Movement.
The President has personally taken upon himself to be as close as possible to the Labour Movement and will even go further to have audience with Labour Leaders from outside his country without the usual bureaucracies and appointments common with most world leaders who view the Presidency as a reserve of the few.
This down-to-earth manner in which the Eritrean President has led his country continue to drive the country’s economy to even higher competitive status.
The infrastructural development together with prudent physical and monitory management of the country’s economy has placed the country top on the continent despite being one of the youngest democracies on the continent having attained independence 17 years ago.
During one of my visits, I was able to travel from Asmara to one of the beautiful towns located 2500 feet down known as Masawa.
I wish to challenge the rest of the leaders on the continent to visit Eritrea and be able to witness the state of a country I am talking about, the wonders in it and the level of development already achieved in a span of few years Eritrea has been independent.
Further, across the continent, it is now evident that the rich African culture that brought the people of Africa together as one people has been eroded and now we are all busy trying to ape foreign strange cultural practices which have no ties with us as a people.
However, Eritrea has positioned itself as a country that finds pride and continues to impress its rich cultural practices.
Despite the influx of Tourists in the country due to its rich tourists attractions and sceneries that have remained unique on the continent, the people of Eritrea have never been intoxicated as witnessed elsewhere in other countries on the continent.
During one of my visits, I was able to take a boat ride to one of the rich Islands in the country and the rich cultural endowment could still be evident on this Island.
The Eritrean people have learnt to do their own things in their own ways unlike most countries who despite having such unique features, they would prefer to adopt the West’s way of doing things which has ended up being a disaster.
However, as workers just like the rest of the world would love to see this beautiful country enjoy a peaceful coexistence with its neighbours.
Particularly, this peace should extend to Ethiopia despite the earlier struggle and animosity between the two countries since the whole world now recognizes Eritrea to be an independent state and self governed country.
On today’s celebration, it is important to note that the occasion of Saint John the Baptist is based on the principle of honesty and integrity whereby in the modern world, these principles are defined as Transparency and Accountability respectively.
Apparently, these are values that have remained the driving force for every Eritrean and whereas most countries have time and again failed to embrace these key values, the State of Eritrea has remained an envy of many in these two areas.
The Eritrean story Brothers and Sisters, tells us that as Africans we can always embrace our own cultures and traditions to develop our respective countries and the continent at large rather than ape the patterns and behavior of our former colonial powers from the West.
Since Independence, Eritreans can never afford to forget the sacrifice of a dozen and a half of valiant Eritrean under the leadership of Hamid Idris Awate who took it upon themselves and were the first people to risk their lives and limb to trigger an all out armed resistance on 1st September 1961.
It is for this reason that September 1st remains a symbol of Eritrean struggle for independence signifying the day the first patriotic Eritreans fired the first bullet.
Known also as Bahti Meskerem in the local language, it further marks the day that heralded the absolute determination of the people of Eritrea to wage an armed struggle including whatever other means necessary to reclaim their national independence that was denied to them for over 20 years.
Today, Brothers and Sisters, Eritrea’s independence can be defined as a gusty begging in 1961, a happy and victorious ending on the Independence Day of 1st September and a tragic human consequence that is the Marty’s day June 20th.
However, these three holidays cannot be identified in isolation and although the people made history, the same history remains cruel as it cannot be erased.
This very day belongs to all Eritreans irrespective of their political or religious affiliation and it is a day that must be utilized to unite the country and foster the values of independence.
As we join you in celebrating this important day, it is my hope that the relationship between our two countries will be even stronger.
The move will result in more employment creation for our countries and subsequent improvement of the living standards of our people as well as the attainment of our ultimate aim as African countries which is self-reliance.
Once more, I thank Your Excellency for the honour you have bestowed upon me and the Kenyan workers by this invitation.
I wish you all the best as you celebrate this auspicious occasion.
I Thank you.
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