Over the years, a lot has been said and written about what is WRONG with Eritrea. Most of that revolves around the issues of human rights abuses and the failed economic system. Volumes of heartbreaking stories, witness testimonies and compelling articles have been documented. Yes, to this day, there is indeed a long list of wrong things that should be made right.
To clear the field let’s get the undisputed wrong things out of the way. Dictatorship, ignoring the ratified Constitution, violation of human rights, torture, indefinite detention without trial, no free press, no freedom of association, economic crisis, unemployment, poverty, poor institutions, poor infrastructure, and lack of basic services.
However, even dark clouds have silver linings, rays of hope. In this article, I will focus on some of the good things we can build upon as it is very important that we remember not just our liabilities, but our assets as well.
It’s ironic that a country with a long and proud tradition of customary law is being undermined by a government that rules by arbitrary decree. Nevertheless, the average citizen in Eritrea prefers to follow the law and obey authorities. While this aspect can be abused by authoritarian regimes, in the long run, when people are motivated not by fear of breaking the law but by the desire to do the right thing, it can serve as a solid foundation for nation-building.
Even among those who support the current regime, few truly believe that the ideology of worshipping one person or one party can be sustained. It is safe to say that dictatorship is now resoundingly rejected and the rule of law and democratic principles have more appeal than ever. While the timing, means and ways of how to get there will not be easy, once a consensus is built among all stakeholders, governing Eritrea will not be difficult.
Unlike in the countries in the region like Ethiopia, Somalia, or Sudan, the ability of the Eritrean government to maintain order and provide services within its territory is uncontested. This means, there are no paramilitary groups, militias, armed insurgencies, or warlords that may hinder a peaceful transition from dictatorship to constitutional governance.
In this regard, maintaining a well-trained and experienced military will be paramount and the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) has proven that it can meet any internal or external threats to peace.
Eritrea is blessed with a number of natural resources, including deposits of gold, potash, copper, zinc, underutilized ports, fishing, and tourism industry as well as potential reserves of oil and natural gas.
In short, it is a rich country made poor by a series of unfortunate circumstances but it can develop its economy and improve the lives of its people in a short time.
Lack of infrastructure, lack of skilled labor, and lack of investment are not easy hurdles to overcome but with constitutional governance, peace, and leaders that are open to loosening control over the economy, Eritrea can be on its way to being a middle-income country.
At around 4-5 million people, Eritrea’s population is relatively small. While a small population can have its disadvantages, it can make it easier to provide services such as education and healthcare to all citizens. With a healthy economy and rule of law to support it, it can also be simpler to maintain transparency and fight corruption.
It won’t be long before we are once again able to dream what other small nations like Rwanda or Mauritius have achieved or dream even bigger and aspire to be like Singapore, Ireland, or Finland.
It is often said that Eritrea’s strategic advantage is its proximity to major shipping lanes on the Red Sea. That is generally true from the perspective of military operations of countries that want to control the region. But simply being located there doesn’t mean we get to collect tolls as ships sail by. It is also a double-edged sword, as the strategic location also means it makes the country a target of those who want to control the region and don’t view Eritrea as an ally.
I think the real strategic advantage is the ports of Massawa and Assab. As the population of land-locked Ethiopia continues to grow, the huge and untapped potential to make these ports economic hubs of the region is yet to come.
Remittances, the money that is sent by the Eritrean diaspora to families and friends inside the country, is already a major source of foreign currency for the country. But that is only one part of what could be achieved. At this time, there is no investment activity to speak of, but the potential is still there.
Involvement of the diaspora can also make Eritrea become oneof the highest education–per–capita counties in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the opportunity and with the right kind of capital-friendly environment, diaspora Eritreans can infuse the economy with hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The government can issue bonds for large-scale development projects which will create thousands of jobs.
Revival of the Deferred Dream
Years ago, Gaim Kibreab wrote a well-written book titled Eritrea: A Dream Deferred. It was a comprehensive analysis of how the promise of the Eritrean Revolution was hijacked and betrayed. But that dream of having a free, peaceful, and prosperous country is something every Eritrean dream of. However, it is not only the dream that has been suspended, deferred, or left on hiatus for decades. It is also actual projects that have been postponed, actual capital waiting to be invested in the country, buildings waiting to be erected, business plans waiting to be implemented, and a wealth of skills and experience waiting to be shared.
With goodwill, good luck, and positive thoughts, the deferred dream does not have to remain deferred forever. While the challenges seem insurmountable, they are not beyond hope. Yes, we need to keep hope alive but that will not be enough. If the definition of hope is the belief that something good will happen in the future, we need to add bold actions so that the hope turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Disclaimer | መተሓሳሰቢ
The views and opinions expressed in " What’s Right With Eritrea " are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Setit Media.
ኣብዚ " What’s Right With Eritrea " ዘርእስቱ ጽሑፍ ተገሊጹ ዘሎ ርእይቶን ሓሳብን ናይቲ ጸሓፊ/ት እምበር መትከላትን መርገጽን ሰቲት ሜዲያ ዘንጸባርቕ ኣይኮነን።