From: dan e (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue May 12 2009 - 04:02:25 EDT
Hundreds of young Eritreans flocked to Rome, Italy, from Europe, North America, and Australia to take part in the Fifth Europe Young People's Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) Conference in mid April - bringing beautiful scenery to a beautiful city. Walking down the streets of Rome in large groups, one of the most talked about topics amongst the delegates was the striking resemblances between Rome and Asmara: the streets, the buildings and the city’s residents walking in a very leisurely and relaxed manner were some of reminiscent aspects of the city that brought the secret city of Africa, Asmara, to mind.
The daunting tasks of organizing and hosting a four-day conference for a large number of people manifested itself, as hundreds of young Eritreans arrived in different parts of Rome. They had to be picked up and transported to the venue by coaches. However, the delegates seemed least worried about these tasks, which could probably be due to their full confidence in the ability of their bitsot Italy-YPFDJ and partly due to the anticipation and excitement in the air: that was almost tangible.
In the last five years, it has become customary for the Eritrean youth across the globe to get together in the conferences that are held in different parts of the world every year. The Eritrean youth movement across the globe has been building momentum and the conference is one of the many youth activities that has great significance in regards to social, political, ideological, historical, cultural and generational; and other important aspects.
In discussing the impact of the Eritrean youth activities, it is vital to highlight the bigger framework of the youth movement and its historical context. Taking a glimpse into the history of Eritrean nation-building process - beginning from the generation of the 1940s and 50s to the present generation – demonstrates the crucial and central role of Eritrean youth.
In the very pioneering document, the Head of Research and Documentation, Mr. Zemheret Yohannes, delivered in the 3rd YPFDJ conference, pointed out that a journey of nation-building is a process that takes the roles of successive generations. Not only does a successful nation-building process require each generation to carry out its role, but also a strong connection and partnership between successive generations that would produce a capable new generation to build on the achievements of the previous ones’.
The ongoing extensive drive and investment in all spheres of national life that are taking place in Eritrea, is a reflection of this framework. The massive investment in higher education, youth programs and projects that develop and harness young people’s potentials and facilitate engagements among the youth and with the older generation; and most importantly through Eritrean youth playing a central role in the real work of reconstruction and defense of the nation.
It is, therefore no wonder, a strong materialization of educated, technically capable, disciplined, and socially, culturally, politically and ideologically conscious young Eritreans are naturally surfacing in abundant numbers in Eritrea.
Similarly, as integral part of this, the efforts have also been extended to the Eritrean youth in Diaspora especially in the last five years. It goes without saying that the role of the Eritrean Diaspora during both the Eritrean liberation struggle and after the independence has been very significant.
Scattered across the world in different countries with different cultures, languages, socio-economic status, the Eritrean Diaspora faces different types of challenges including social, cultural, economic and other complex problems. This global network also presents opportunities for the Diaspora community as well as Eritrea.
The Eritrean youth movement described as “an idea whose time has come” – has a crucial role to play in creating a successful community, in overcoming the challenges and integrate the opportunities to Eritrea’s defense and nation-building process in a more dynamic way.
It is with this framework in mind that close to six hundred young Eritreans from across the globe got together in Rome with the aim of sharing ideas and experiences, to report and assess their progress, to map out future plans and directly engage with senior Eritrean leaders.
The delegates arrived in Rome on Thursday the 9th of April 2009 at different places and times and were transported in several coaches to the conference venue (located some hours away from the city).
This day was the beginning for the historic conference; the delegates in their hundreds were now in the massive lobby area and the venue compound meeting and greeting new and old friends whose ideals match or complement one another.
These were young Eritreans with very diverse backgrounds in their profession and education; speak many different languages. Many were born and raised in different countries, others were born and raised in Eritrea and now live in the western nations (some for many years and others for a few months), yet what stands out above everything else is their unity and commitment for Eritrean national values and their belief the solution to everything is only to be found in building a viable and sustainable nation.
The conference was officially opened on Friday morning with a ceremony including, raising the national flag of Eritrea and Singing the Eritrean National Anthem, a speech, cultural and artistic shows. The theme of the conference was “Organizational and Social development” reflecting the rapid growth of the movement all over the world, which requires addressing organizational issues and role of the youth movement in social issues and creating a strong Eritrean Diaspora.
The official opening was followed by presentations of activities for the past year by all chapters including Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Austria, Holland, USA, Canada, Australia and the European wide YPFDJ coordinating committee.
The reports reflected the vast activities undertaken in areas of community issues, raising political and ideological consciousness, media, fundraising, skills development, lobbying and networking and projects carried out by members while in Eritrea. Not only did the report from each chapter present the successes of the undertaken projects, but it also demonstrated the dynamism and creativity of the Eritrean youth.
The reports were also an immense indication of the direction of the youth movement and progress achieved so far. One of the successful activities undertaken was the effort to form stronger relations and common understanding with the youth from across the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, the Sudan, Ogaden and Kenya.
The activities were carried out jointly with the youth from across the region with the aim to create a common understanding and working together for peace and stability of the region including forums, peaceful demonstrations against the Ethiopian regime and its supporters, media activities and the participation of the youth from all the above stated countries in the first Horn Youth Conference that was held in Eritrea.
Fortunately or unfortunately the Horn of Africa is located in one of the most strategic parts of the world and with abundant natural resources, the consequence of this has been the concentrated outside intervention throughout the history of the region.
The outside intervention has not only prevented the people of the region from solving their internal problems by themselves, but has also been the major cause of the problems the region faces. For example the Ethiopian regime, a regime that is terrorizing the whole region, would not survive for a week had it not been for the massive injection of capital and Political support by Western Countries. In return Ethiopia reciprocates by acting as the bully and destabilizing agent.
A group of young Eritreans were using the Zebra crossing to cross the road in Rome. Although they were in the middle of the road, the cars did not stop, putting them in a dangerous situation. This was apparently normal and you are made familiar with the saying that goes: “Traffic lights are instructive in France, suggestive in Spain, and decorative in Italy.”
This saying can also be extended to the way the USA and other Western nations have been operating in the Horn region. The values they preach about democracy and human rights in order to intervene in the affairs of other nations. The UN resolutions, international court rulings, are applied with one agenda in mind and that is to advance their interest. These values and rule of law are instructive, when it suits their perceived interest; they become suggestive when the present arrangement suits them; and they become decorative when the offending government is a partner/ally in crime.
The heinous crimes of the Ethiopian regime that are committed in the Ogden, Somalia and Ethiopia are ignored, while the ones in the Sudan are glorified. The Ethiopian regime is given ample support to ignore the International Border Ruling and thereby occupying Eritrean territories. The regime also receives a great deal of political support in suppressing the Ethiopian people’s opposition.
There is now a profound consciousness across the Horn of Africa about the negative role of the outside intervention. The Horn of Africa Diaspora communities in particular the youth are now jointly working in engaging the powers of the world by informing them that their interest can be secured when there is peace and stability in the region and that peace and stability can only be secured when the interest of the people of the region are respected. Imposing puppet regimes is not the solution; the result of that is the existing sorry state of the region where millions of people are extremely marginalized.
The likes of the former US Assistant Secretary for Africa Jandayi Fraser (hopefully resting in peace now), the Ethiopian regime and other governments and elements that put their own interest before that of the people of the region, have tried to make the world believe that Eritrea is the source of instability in the horn region. This is, of course, an attempt to hide from the wrong policies and mistaken strategies they pursued in the region; and a reflection of the fact that they view Eritrea as an obstacle in the implementation of their agenda.
Contrary to their claims, Eritrea’s constructive engagement in the Horn of Africa originates in the principles learned through the struggle of over a half century, a struggle that defines the characteristics of the country. The Eritrean vision that was articulated decades before independence and the execution of this vision until this date demonstrates the strong conviction that for Eritrea to enjoy a permanent peace and tranquility: a peaceful neighborhood is a necessity.
On one hand the Eritrean people have gone through immense suffering and sacrificed the blood of so many while fighting against regimes supported by world superpowers to win their independence in 1991 expecting no less and no more than full ownership of their own destiny.
On the other hand, the world was moving in the opposite direction. Complete domination: the independence of countries mainly in Africa and other less developed countries reduced to symbolic ones, ruled from elsewhere. The western economic institutions in charge of the economic and social policies; politics run by Western drive to spread democracy; the nongovernmental organizations that come in all types of names replaced the African governments; commercial interests in the hands of outsiders; the peace and security under blue-helmeted troops; and priests that come with brand new bibles and churches in charge of religion.
Given its history and character, Eritrea was not prepared to join the jubilation of the new world order. Following its independence in 1994, Eritrea charted its journey of new chapter in a document, "A National Charter for Eritrea” that describes the vision and principles of the country.
The charter describes itself as: “"A National Charter for Eritrea”. It is not copied from books or from the charters of other countries. It starts from the realities of our country and society, and from our rich experience. It does not borrow wholesale any analyses or formulas that are fashionable in today's world either. Rather, by critically examining all ideas and relating them with the realities of our society and our experience, the purpose is to chart an independent line that works for Eritrea.”
The goals and principles are simply stated in the National Charter, yet deeply rooted in the Eritrean history and the values upheld by society and those strengthened and developed during the struggle for independence.
This “independent line that works” has proven that it indeed works; Eritrea has complete ownership of all its policies including foreign policy and socioeconomic policy. The developments of the last eighteen years in Eritrea show that Eritrea is in the right direction and the recent world trends of ideas have moved along the lines of the Eritrean way.
This independent line has also made Eritrea the target of the most powerful countries and their institutions. Arrogant western diplomats who were used to donor/recipient relationships with the developing countries found it hard to adjust to Eritrea’s strong conviction in partnership and mutual interest way of dealing.
Equally all the other representatives of all the institutions that have no regard for the national sovereignty found Eritrea irritating. They have come back presenting themselves as “Guardian Angels” of the Eritrean people with an intense propaganda campaign against the Eritrean Government/Country.
These enormous challenges also brought opportunities for Eritrea including to build strong relation with its natural allies, the oppressed people across the Horn region; proved once again, with the cherished Eritrean values: self-reliance and resilience of its people, it can survive, develop and make progress to mention some in health, building infrastructure, food security, social sector and foreign investment in the mining industry operating with deals and shares reaching in some cases 50% for Eritrea, a phenomenon unprecedented in the developing world. Many others are now also coming to terms in accepting Eritrea with its full national characteristics.
When non-Eritreans learn about the high level of mobilization of the Eritrean Diaspora, organized in different forms including youth, women, children and community as a whole, they often get amazed how such phenomenon was made possible. Again this is also a product of the history of the Eritrean people.
Eritrean Diaspora has always been the backbone of the struggle for liberation in the past and is playing a significant role now to overcome current challenges. For instance in the very country Italy in which the youth conference took place, Eritrean women worked as maids, cleaners, cooks and child minders for Italian families and sent their earnings to fund the Eritrean liberation struggle.
Like all other Diaspora communities, Eritreans also face different social and other problems. As well as the positive aspects, extreme individualism and other social problems also affect all Diaspora communities. The vast majorities of the Diaspora communities join the society at the lower end of the host countries with immense social problems; where in many cases, with the eroded values of family, having a father in one’s life is, considered as a privilege. Minimizing the influence of such an environment and the bigger objective of creating a strong and successful community, are reflected in the activities carried out by chapters of the youth movement. Great deal of activities are undertaken in regards to raising consciousness, maintaining strong Eritrean identity and values rooted in Eritrean history and culture.
The Eritrean national charter is the guiding document for the Eritrean Youth movement. One of the six goals, “Cultural Revival” is a great point of guidance in regards to the challenges the Eritrean Diaspora face. Among some of the values stated include: “solidarity between men and women,” “love of country,” “self-reliance,” “respect for law,” “hard work,” “self-reliance” “love of truth and justice” etc. It also warns: “Caution should be exercised so that aspects of our heritage such as love of family and people, and community and cooperation, are not eroded”.
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