Eritrea at 24: Proving All Naysayers Wrong

Eritrea is good in proving naysayers wrong
AGAINST ALL ODDS. “Thirty years ago most observers doubted that Eritrea would even win its war for independence. Who is to say that Eritrea will not again surprise [the naysayers] as it seeks to liberate itself from poverty?” – FT
By Dawit Gebremichael Habte,

ERITREA is good in proving naysayers wrong. The list of naysayers and their prophecy of doom is long but it suffices to quote a couple from history.

Stephen Longrigg, the notorious Chief British Military Administrator of Eritrea (1942-1944), concluded his book on the “history” of Eritrea with these words:

the single Eritrea of to-day is doomed. Dismemberment, in some form and to some extent, must be the alternative.” – Stephen H. Longrigg, A Short History of Eritrea, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1945.

This is the same Longrigg who was writing in Eritrean Newspapers using an Eritrean penname and advocating the dismemberment of Eritrea. Eritrean people and its struggle has proved him wrong.

In 1983, few months after Ethiopia’s much heralded Sixth Offensive (also known by the Ethiopians as Operation Red Star) was soundly defeated by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Army in the mountains of Sahel, Haggai Erlich, an Israeli historian and expert on the infamous Tigrean war lord, Alula, had this prediction:

The Eritrean organizations were not destroyed, but their chances of defeating the Ethiopian armed forces and recapturing Eritrea became remote. What had seemed just a year earlier a feasible military option for fulfilling Eritrean nationalism was rendered impossible and seems likely to remain so for the foreseeable future…. Eritrean victory may realistically be excluded as a future possibility. The chances of those identified with Eritrean nationalism achieving it by military victory over the Ethiopian armed forces seems very remote.” – Haggai Erlich, The Struggle over Eritrea 1962-1978.

Eritrean victories at the Northern Sahel Front in 1984, Afabet in 1988 (where nearly 20, 000 Ethiopian and three Russian Generals were captured), the Port City of Massawa in 1990 (the beginning of the end for Ethiopian occupation), and finally the surrender of the entire Ethiopian Army, and the total liberation of Eritrea on May 24, 1991 crashing black Africa’s largest army had proved this Israeli historian wrong. This historian was silent for nearly seven years, he then surfaced with his wrong predictions during the 1998-2000 war, then too he was proven wrong.

Fast foreword now to our times, there are similar naysayers who have not learned from the history of the Eritrean people. From self-declared “experts” at the International Crisis Group, to self-serving journalists and war-mongering diplomats, who preach doom and gloom, they all have been proved wrong. For now, we will focus on a couple of these recent naysayers:

According to the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reported by The Guardian, US Ambassador to Eritrea, Ronald K. McMullen is claimed to have concluded that the Eritrean government “is one bullet away from implosion”.

Ambassador McMullen reached this conclusion back in March of 2009. At least that is when the report appears to have been compiled. So, whatever happened to the people and government of Eritrea six years and two months since? How did their fate turn out to be compared to their neighbors and the rest of the world?

For one thing, the government of Eritrea is more stable and the people of Eritrea are more determined and certain of achieving their nirvana. Eritrean’s nirvana is nothing short of an independent, stable, peaceful, self-reliant, prosperous, and socially responsible country. A stable government and dedicated population are necessary but not sufficient prerequisites for realizing Eritrea’s aspirations. Eritrea’s nirvana requires a solid infrastructure and reliable framework for sustainable economic development. How does Eritrea’s report card look like in that respect, come May 24, 2015?

From infrastructure perspective, the people and government of Eritrea have completed dozens of big and small dam construction projects like: Kerkebet, Gerset, Fanco Rawi, Fanco Tsimue, Gergera, Teqera, Tokor, Ali Gidir, Biddho and Warsai. The combined capacity of these is more than 600 million cubic meter.

In addition, Eritrea today is dotted with micro-dams, water reservoirs, check-dams and river diversion schemes. All these are an effort by Eritrea to have food-security, so that it doesn’t have to wait for handouts in the form of food aid.

In 1998, at the beginning of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, US Ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shin told a group of US based Eritrean and Ethiopian citizens that were trying to bring peace to the two countries that, “in a short time the Eritrean economy would collapse”. According to another Wikileaks cable, this time out of Berlin, the German government froze its loan support for “the Bisha mining project”, predicting that “it would paralyze the project.”

Also in 2009, Ambassador McMullen professed that “Gold mining will not provide the anticipated economic panacea.” Well, as of early 2015, what is the status of the Eritrean economy? According to some economic analysts Eritrea’s economy is among the fastest growing economies in Africa.

For starters Eritrea has attracted more than a dozen mining companies, some are in the extraction phase, some in the advanced exploration stage and others starting. They are exploring for: gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni), potash (mainly coming from potassium bearing salts), tantalum (Ta) and uranium (U).

Here is a small sample of the mining companies operating in Eritrea:

  • Canadian Nevsun Resources (AMEX:NSU) (Bisha and Harena projects),
  • Canadian Sunridge Gold Corporation — TSX: SGC (Emba Derho, Adi Nefas, Debarwa, Gupo, Adi Raesi and Kodadu projects).
  • Chinese Investment Group SFECO (Kerkebet and Zara projects)
  • Australian South Boulder Mines — ASX:STB (Colluli Potash project)
  • British Ortac Resources — LON:OTC (Hykota exploration area) and
  • Russian Ketina Mining — GPB — RTS: GZPR (Molki exploration area).

Ambassador McMullen had also claimed that: “the country’s reservoir of hope is now largely depleted.” Irrespective of the amount and abundance of mineral resources the country has in reserve, Eritrea’s precious resources are its children. Eritrea had made it clear from the get go, its children are “the country’s reservoir of hope” that will take the nation to its nirvana. No matter what the naysayers and prophets of doom like McMullen predict, pray for, and work for, Eritrea’s real reservoir of hope will never be depleted.

The nation that was supposed to be “on the brink of disaster” in 1945, in 1983, in 2000 and 2009 by the naysayers is still standing as tall as ever. Nevertheless, have Eritreans reached their nirvana? Absolutely not! Are they in the right direction to getting to their nirvana? YES! Eritrea is definitely in the right path. Is the Eritrean government “one bullet away from implosion?” Far from it; quite to the contrary, Eritreans and their government are standing with their heads up and tackling, relying on themselves, the challenges of getting to a much brighter future.

The Financial Times of London had written 19 years ago: “thirty years ago most observers doubted that Eritrea would even win its war for independence. Who is to say that Eritrea will not again surprise the world as it seeks to liberate itself from poverty?

For sure, Eritrea is in the right track to surprise the world and to once more prove all the naysayers wrong.

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