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Memorial Day Message Amb. Andebrhan Welde Giorgis

20 June 2024

Glory to Our Martyrs!

Today the 20th of June 2024 marks the Memorial Day for our heroic martyrs who gave their precious lives for the independence of Eritrea, the freedom of the Eritrean people, and the preservation of Eritrea’s independence. 

The modern history of Eritrea is a history of struggle replete with sacrifices. What was the objective of the struggle and the sacrifices? The main objective was to establish an independent democratic Eritrea that avails freedom, justice and prosperity for all. The fundamental aims of our armed struggle are encapsulated in the form of eleven-points of the National Democratic Programme adopted in the First Congress of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Forces or the inaugural congress of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. Just to refresh our memory, the objectives are:

  1. Establish a people’s democratic state;
  2. Build an independent, self-reliant and planned national economy;
  3. Develop culture, education, technology, and public health;
  4. Safeguard social rights (emphasising workers’ and women’s rights);
  5. Ensure the equality and consolidate the unity of nationalities; 
  6. Build a strong people’s army; 
  7. Respect freedom of religion and faith;
  8. Provide humane treatment to prisoners of war (POWs);
  9. Protect the rights of Eritreans residing abroad;
  10. Respect the rights of foreigners residing in Eritrea; and
  11. Pursue a foreign policy of peace and non-alignment. 

Successive generations of Eritrean men and women invested their youth, our martyrs gave their lives, and our war disabled veterans endured bodily injuries to make these noble objectives a reality. They achieved the independence of Eritrea and foiled renewed aggression in its defence through their sacrifices. They have written the modern history of Eritrea through their blood. As such, the 20th of June is a memorial day that all patriotic Eritreans solemnly commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the people and the country.  

As the day of the final defeat of Ethiopia’s all-out 6th offensive launched with the aim to erase the Eritrean revolution once and for all, a feat which the Eritrean People’s Liberation Army achieved at the price of the largest number of martyrs, the 20th of June 1982 bears a special symbolic significance in the annals of the Eritrean people’s armed struggle. The Eritrean people waged a long and arduous struggle for national liberation that has few parallels in modern history and achieved national independence through the sacrifices of tens of thousands of their finest sons and daughters.

Independence rid Eritrea of colonial rule; changed the political map of the Horn of Africa; and enabled Eritrea to take its rightful place among the international community of free nations. Beyond Eritrea, the Eritrean revolution, which pursued national democratic objectives combining, at the level of principle, the Eritrean people’s aspirations for political independence and social justice, whose exemplar determination, courage and hope was a source of inspiration for the struggle of oppressed peoples the world over.

At the level of practice, however, it proved a disappointment. Although the Eritrean people waged an epic armed struggle, Eritrea today is littered with unfulfilled expectations, broken promises and thwarted hopes of freedom, justice and prosperity. Thirty-three years post-independence, the Eritrean people have endured the scourge of autocratic oppression, extreme poverty and arbitrary detention. The desire to escape from indefinite Active national service perpetrated in violation of its legal limits as per the Proclamation and rampant unemployment has forced the youth to leave the country in droves. Wrong policies and missed opportunities have derailed Eritrea from developing into a prosperous nation and, instead, immersed it in the quagmire of apparent backwardness and poverty. 

The achievement of national independence is a great historic victory. National independence, however, was not the ultimate objective of the struggle for which our people fought, and our martyrs sacrificed their lives. Post-independence, the struggle aimed to bring about fundamental socioeconomic transformation and build a new democratic society that avails freedom, justice and prosperity for all. In brief, the primary objective of our armed struggle was for independence to enable the Eritrean people to own and fully enjoy their political, economic, social, cultural and human rights.

However, the betrayal of the fundamental objectives of our armed struggle aborted the development of the democratic process.  The concentration of absolute power created absolute dictatorship; imposed a state of suppression and predation without any legal constraints or institutional restrictions; drove mass exodus; regressed the country; and immersed the people in the misery of extreme poverty. An autocrat usurped absolute power; refused to implement the Constitution; disolved the National Assembly; and rules in accordance with his whims in an open display of the arrogance and corruption of power. 

In an era of global transition whence might has become right in the relations among nations, economic wealth, military power and a growing population equipped with modern education have become the main factors that can guarantee the future independent existence of nations. Under the circumstances, the Government of Eritrea must introduce political and economic changes that cater to the needs of the people; mobilise national resources; build human capital; construct physical and social infrastructure; encourage trade and investment; and expand healthcare and education services. In brief, it must undertake an initiative that promotes national development and raises the standard of living of the people. 

Instead, the regime has deployed the domestic media and various social media platforms to portray an impression that things are well in Eritrea; glorify a tin-pot dictator; and aggrandise his stature. Quite evidently, occasional hypocritical speeches in commemoration of martyrs cannot vindicate the sacrifices of our people and martyrs. What is needed is the establishment of an accountable and transparent constitutional governance that respects the rudimentary rights and freedoms of the people; revitalises the national economy; improves the livelihood of the people; administers justice; and brings about prosperity. 

Eritreans who care for their people and love their country must, for the sake of the interests of the people and the country, thus have the principle, the courage and the conviction to advocate and work for the implementation of the programmatic objectives of our armed struggle to bring about a democratic Eritrea that vindicates the sacrifices of our martyrs. A democratic Eritrea would enable Eritreans at home to live in safety and Eritreans in the diaspora to return home. All can then work and invest to earn decent living, support their families, and contribute to the development of the country.

As we solemnly commemorate Martyrs’ Day today, the 20th of June 2023, let us endeavour to realise the noble objectives for which our heroic martyrs sacrificed their lives. The realisation of the noble objectives of empowering the Eritrean people to live in freedom, dignity, justice and prosperity and enabling independent Eritrea to rise and thrive would vindicate their sacrifices and console the Eritrean people. 

Indeed, it is necessary to endeavour to establish an accountable and transparent constitutional government that (1) respects the rule of law; (2) administers justice; and (3) uses our country’s natural, human and material resources, including its manpower, sea, ports and minerals, in the service of national development and the improvement of the standard of living of our people to uplift the human condition in Eritrea.

Long live an independent sovereign Eritrea!

Eternal glory to our martyrs!