'What Would I Be Celebrating?': Eritrea Marks Independence Anniversary

'What would I be celebrating?': Eritrea marks independence anniversary

Nairobi, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 23rd May, 2023 ) :As a child in the early years after Eritrea's independence, Filmon Debru longed for the festivities every May celebrating the country's newfound statehood, and the heroes who fought and died for it.

Parties, music and dancing lasted the entire month to commemorate Eritrea's liberation from Ethiopian rule in May 1991, and its overwhelming support for independence in a UN-backed referendum two years later.

"There was true happiness... Everything seemed to be pointing upwards," said the 37-year-old, who remembered "euphoria" as he sat on the shoulders of adults watching colourful parades roll by.

But he is no longer cheering as Eritrea marks its independence, which was formally declared on May 24, 1993.

The hope and possibility Filmon felt for his young country is gone, crushed by a regime so totalitarian and repressive that Eritrea is widely called "the North Korea of Africa".

In the small and secretive one-party state, critics disappear into gulags and civilians are conscripted for life or forced into labour under an extreme policy of national service that has been likened to slavery.

Elections have never been held and it has no free press, political opposition, or civil society.

A global pariah, the Red Sea nation has been sanctioned for meddling in regional conflicts, including most recently over abuses by its army in the Tigray war in Ethiopia.

Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans desperate for jobs and freedom have fled the tiny country, including Filmon, who risked his life to leave behind the homeland he once so proudly loved.

"Honestly, what would I be celebrating?" said the software developer, who nearly lost both hands after being chained and tortured by people smugglers in the Sinai Peninsula.

He has lived in Germany since 2014.

"What kind of independence celebration would it be?"