Accepting the gift, rejecting the giver: Eritrean independence

Every Eritrean owes his or her citizenship to the current government.

I was in first grade when the brave triumphant revolutionary forces (the EPLF Tegadelti) marched into the city in 1991, ending decades of civil war and three decades of liberation struggle.

How does one accept the gift but reject the giver? The independence we so deserve was brought about by cruel and lawless bandits*. This is at the heart of Eritreans’ dilemma.

The common Tigrinya saying “ተቐባል ሌባ”, meaning whoever accepts goods from a thief is a thief himself, is overly simplistic to explain our dilemma. The saying assumes the “goods” one is accepting or buying from the thief is not rightly his in the first place which makes the verdict relatively meaningful.

In the case of Eritrean independence, the ‘liberators’ are outlaws because of how they fought the ‘good-fight’. To mention some of the morally repugnant practices that gave birth to our precious independence:

  • Widespread practice of slavery: raiding villages to ‘recruit’ soldiers to fight in the front lines. Killing or torturing those that dared to refuse to participate. (The “Stop National Service/Slavery in Eritrea” campaign should back me up on this).
  • Abduction and use of child soldiers: Routinely rounding up and ‘recruiting’ the underage to the army. Testimony of Yordanos Haile Michael is in no way an exception. (By the way, many Eritreans are happy to defend and downplay this practice, repugnant. Current practices are harder to swallow though [1])
  • Widespread practice of extra-judicial killings: Executing soldiers within their ‘army’ for asking too much questions. Assassinating civilians in cities that did not support the insurgency for one reason or another.

I only mention these because these are the most widely practiced and most undisputed atrocities of the insurgency that handed us our citizenship.

The matter of rejecting the outlaws and condemning their outlaw practices makes an Eritrean feel uneasy and a bit hypocritical.

Can you accept the hard won gift of independence and at the same time acknowledge the atrocities the gift-giver has committed to get you that gift? Alternatively, Can you reject a gift that you so deserve; a gift that was taken away from you by violence simply because slavery and child soldiers were used to retrieve that gift?

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebrations. Also the 23rd year of his presidency.

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebration, May 24 2014. President of the state for the past 23 years and commander in chief of the armed forces (former insurgency) for 39 years.

*“cruel bandits” not meant to describe individual fighters who gave all they have believing the EPLF’s propaganda.

{This article is also published at}

One thought on “Accepting the gift, rejecting the giver: Eritrean independence

  1. Pingback: The Best Dissident Diaries of the Year | dissident diaries

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