BY BEREKET KIDANE
In the next few days, Eritrea will celebrate its twenty-seventh birthday, remembering the glorious and momentous day of May 24, 1991. Some Eritrean communities in the diaspora already got a jump and celebrated Eritrea’s birthday this past weekend. It was a beautiful sight to see, and an outpouring of love, support, and admiration for the State of Eritrea.
What makes this year’s Independence Day celebrations special and noteworthy for Eritreans is the fact that 2018 is the 20thanniversary of the launch of the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea War (Werar Weyane or TPLF’s Invasion to Eritreans).
Werar Weyane was launched under the pretext of a border war but it was really an all-out attempt by the TPLF [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] to erase Eritrea’s sovereignty and achieve TPLF’s impossible dream of Greater Tigray. Therefore, it was a war for the survival of the Eritrean State.
Ambassador David Shinn, for instance, has openly spoken about how the then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told him Eritrea and Ethiopia will be reunited soon right after TPLF’s invasion of Eritrea started.
Twenty years later, the legacy of that war is still reverberating in both countries. The war’s lasting effects have been detrimental for Eritreans, but they are utterly devastating for Tigrayans.
Events leading up to that war included TPLF’s redrawing of Kilil Tigray’s map to include large swaths of sovereign Eritrean territories and the cold-blooded murder (execution style) of five Eritrean Army officers who drove to Tigray to negotiate a border dispute. It should be noted that the Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) has ruled in a “final and binding” case that the contested territories and the flashpoint town of Badme belong to the State of Eritrea.
My family and I celebrated Eritrea’s 27th Independence Day this past weekend as we were visiting friends in Canada. As Eritrean artists danced and entertained the audience, and sentiments were expressed by speakers and guests alike, I couldn’t help but think about all the sons and daughters who have been sacrificed to gain – and keep – Eritrea’s independence. Specifically, I kept thinking about the 19,000 Warsays who died defending Eritrea’s sovereignty against Werar Weyane twenty years ago as many of them were my contemporaries and a few were close cousins of mine or neighborhood kids that I knew while growing up.
Part of TPLF’s calculation twenty years ago during that so-called border war when it brutally expelled some 98,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia and dumped them at Eritrea’s feet was to exert tremendous pressure on the Eritrean economy so that it would completely collapse within a few months and sink Eritrea’s sovereignty with it.
Twenty years after the TPLF Invasion of Eritrea, for which TPLF invested an estimated US $3 billion after going on a shopping spree that included the hiring of mercenary pilots from Ukraine and former Soviet republics to fly its newly purchased fighter planes, Eritrea not only has survived but thrived. In historical perspective, Eritrea’s situation is nothing short of miraculous.
Eritrea’s continuing miracle is not only that it’s thrived but now it helps nations in need. It was reported last week that Eritrea pledged to donate 50,000 tons of food aid to help alleviate hunger in the brotherly nation of South Sudan. Eritrea’s outreach to South Sudan should serve as a model of an intra-African cooperation during times of natural or man-made food crises.
Twenty-seven years after its founding, the State of Eritrea has become a light onto the troubled nations of the Horn. In the coming years and decades, that light will shine even brighter.
Happy 27th birthday Eritrea!