Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki has disclosed that the country is set to chart a new course in the light of national and regional developments but that it was going to do so at a measured pace.
Speaking at the 28th independence day celebrations in the capital Asmara, the president hailed the resilience of Eritreans dating as far back as after the Second World War through to the struggle for independence and post – independence war.
“Before prematurely charting out new and permanent sustainable development programmes, it is imperative that we conduct extensive political, economic and security appraisals so as to properly diagnose the unfolding realities with requisite depth.
“We cannot make hasty and emotional conclusions before we collect adequate information, analyze these data comprehensively with patience so as to have a clear picture. Hence, our focus should be geared towards patient appraisal of the unfolding reality.
“Our tasks and priorities today as well as for the near future should be to guarantee a conducive climate and basis for the new era. This precept emanates from our values that have crystallized over time,” he said.
The theme of the 2019 anniversary was “Resilience for Higher Progress”! Afwerki said it was chose: “Because this is a historical juncture in which the extraordinary resilience of the Eritrean people has been elevated and emerged triumphant once again.”
His summary of Eritrea’s 28 years of independence and sovereignty
As the Eritrean people embarked on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of their nation liberated through heavy sacrifices, they faced relentless hostilities designed to subdue, weaken and hold them hostage.
To this end, senseless border disputes were concocted! Unwarranted sanctions imposed! Naked military attacks launched! Political ruses, economic subversion, human trafficking as well as psychological warfare and demonization aimed at isolating Eritrea were perpetrated.
One can say: “thwarting all these wrongs would have been unimaginable without the resilience of the Eritrean people”!
Issues that political watchers expected to hear about
For a country that has long been accused serially of human rights abuses including the arbitrary arrest and jailing of opposition voices and the media, political watchers expected concrete declarations in that area.
The issue of compulsory military service has been one that people expected the president to address. Reports indicate that the government was going to apply limits to the initiative.
The border war with Ethiopia was usually cited as the reason for which it was given an indefinite format but with peace between the two neighbours, the government has been pushed severally to address what the United Nations and rights groups have termed a gross abuse and exploitation of young people.
Whether or not the government will also release detainees held in its prisons remains another major talking point. From political opponents to journalists, Human Rights Watch, HRW, and the UN have been pushing over the years for clarity.
Eritrea’s political history
Eritrea was colonized by two European countries – Italy (1889 – 1941) and England (1941 – 1952). It was annexed by Ethiopia in 1961 after the UN declared it an an autonomous region of Ethiopia after the British left in 1952.
In 1991, the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front triumphed in a war of independence, they are said to have had a hand in deposing Ethiopia’s last emperor, Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974.
Eritrea in 1993 voted for independence from Ethiopia in a UN-backed referendum and subsequently gained international recognition. It is currently a full member of the African Union (A.U.) and of the United Nations (U.N.)
A constitution was promulgated in 1997 but has never been implemented. The last presidential elections were planned for the same year but failed to hold. Nothing has been mooted along those lines since then. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that work on a new draft constitution started in 2014 and continued well into 2016.