Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation.

Recently, someone told  me that I should post the brief speech that I gave at the Eritrean flag raising ceremony in San Jose, California in 2014. As a result, I am posting the speech below.

Council-member Sam Liccardo, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening,

In the west, people start a speech with a joke, in Asia, with an apology and in Africa with a libation or remembrance.

As Eritrean-Americans we do both. Since we had the remembrance earlier, I will save the joke for later.

The Eritrean Community of San Jose is thrilled that their city is raising the Eritrean Flag in honor of Eritrean Independence Day which takes place on May 24, 2014.

Firstly, a few points about the flag:

The green represents development.
The red represents the huge sacrifice made to achieve independence.
The blue represents the marine wealth.
The yellow  represents the mineral wealth. The wreath and olive branch were adopted (the color was changed from green to yellow) from the Eritrean flag of the Federal Period (1952-1962).

Secondly, by way of an introduction, Eritrea is the oldest young nation*. The land, culture, languages, script, rock painting, etc. are very old.Its archeological discoveries rank second in Africa.

You might ask, how could one be old and young at the same time?

Let’s start with the old part, first:

It is old because all paleontological and archeological evidences suggest that Eritrean history is as old as humanity**.  A one-million year old fossil was found in Buia, Eritrea and they are still finding more as we speak. Beside human fossils, a twenty-seven million year old elephant missing link and a one-million year old bull fossils were also found. The archeologist from Spain who constructed the bull from two hundred pieces joked that bull fighting must have started in Eritrea and the first matador must have been from Eritrea.

It is old because researchers from the University of Santa Cruz have found out that what the ancient Egyptians called “the Land of Punt” or “the Land of Gods” was actually located in Eritrea.

It is old because Christianity and Islam were adopted without force during the 4th and 7th centuries, respectively.

As you can see, I am coming from Before the Common Era (BCE) to the Common Era (CE).

From 15th to 18th century, Eritrea was colonized by various forces including the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. Italy officially created Eritrea on January 1st 1890 and ruled it until 1941 when it was replaced by Great Britain. After ten years of British rule, Eritrea was forced to federate with Ethiopia under the auspices of the United Nations, however, in 1962 Ethiopia unilaterally annexed Eritrea. A year earlier, the Eritreans had started an armed struggle which lasted thirty years.

Eritrea is new because on May 24, 1991 Eritrean forces entered the capital city Asmara and declared Eritrea finally independent. Therefore, tomorrow will be Eritrea’s 23rd anniversary. Since independence, Eritrea has achieved a great deal and is one of the only four African countries that have achieved United Nation’s Millennium Goals.

I dare suggest to you that Eritrea is getting younger as it gets older. Or as my speech suggests Eritrea started old and is getting younger every day.

One of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, F. Scott Fitzgerald, must have been thinking of Eritrea when he wrote his short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Speaking of young people, San Jose has a growing number of second generation Eritrean-Americans.

Let me introduce you to one of them, Ginbar Ketema.

Thank you

Note:  Since that speech Council-member Sam Liccardo has become the mayor of San Jose.

* In 2007, I created a 10 minutes promotional video for the Eritrea Development Foundation (EDF) entitled  "Eritrea: the Oldest New Nation".  After South Sudan's independence in 2011, I changed the words to "Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation".

** Tsegai Medhin , an Eritrean PhD archeology student in Spain, came up with the sentence.
See his interview on my blog.