BY FIKREJESUS AMHAZION (PH.D.)
Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to lift the nearly decade-long international sanctions on Eritrea. The news led to the outpouring of widespread joy and excited celebrations among Eritreans, both across the country and in cities around the world.
I was in my hometown, Asmara, in maekel ketema (city center), with several friends and colleagues when the news first started filtering in. Banderas (flags) were quickly planted outside all shops and buildings, in public areas, on windows and balconies, and on many cars. People driving in cars excitedly honked their horns and passionately waved flags out of their windows.
There was also a live outdoor concert held at Bahti Meskerem, the large public square. People of all ages came together to sing, dance, cheer, and celebrate the latest positive development for Eritrea and the Horn of Africa. Bright smiles and laughter were abundant and the atmosphere was one of extreme happiness and joy.
As I watched Eritreans proudly celebrate the lifting of sanctions and in the days since then, several thoughts have come to mind.
First, congratulations must go to the people of Eritrea – the soldiers, the youth, the civil servants, the elders, the farmers, and the mothers and fathers. This latest development can only be regarded as an undeniable victory for them. Do not forget that the international sanctions were just one part of the larger strategy devised by the previous US and Ethiopian governments to isolate and weaken Eritrea, hoping to cause its collapse, implosion, or submission.
However, the people of Eritrea stood strong, never wavered, never flinched, and remained firmly committed to their core principles and values. Few could have withstood all that they confronted and overcame. They truly deserve the greatest credit and unreserved respect.
Second, it is quite interesting that much like during the period shortly after Eritrea and Ethiopia first came to peace, in the days since sanctions were lifted there have been numerous analyses and comments outlining what Eritrea’s next steps ought to be.
However, it is extremely difficult to overlook the fact that many of these comments and analyses emanate from those who for years strongly supported sanctions on Eritrea, even in the absence of a scintilla of supporting evidence, or who have regularly penned the country’s obituary, in various instances confidently predicting its ever-imminent economic collapse, looming state failure or disintegration, or announcing that it was definitely about to “blow” if not already imploding.
The notion that those who contributed to years of injustice against the people of Eritrea or who were so abjectly wrong in their analyses about the country or the region should now somehow guide the conversation or dictate the path forward for Eritrea is beyond preposterous. To use a phrase from Shakespeare’s King Lear, “That way madness lies.”
Undeniably, Eritrea faces significant challenges. At the same time, however, Eritreans are not naïve. They are fully aware of the immense challenges ahead and the considerable work that lay in store. Eritreans, also, are not daunted. The fact that they have been able to withstand and overcome so much for so long serves as great inspiration and a reservoir of strength for the journey forward. And, as per Aeschylus’ maxim, “Suffering leads to wisdom.”
Of course, it should be noted that Eritreans are also highly welcoming and appreciative of any genuine help or support. However, do not doubt the fundamental fact that the future of Eritrea is in the strong, capable hands of the Eritrean people. They – and they alone – will be the ones to map their future and move the country forward.