Asmara - May 23rd 2004
While I have been traveling and
feasting, Terhas has identified the content of my second suitcase, containing
various gifts of Mebrat to friends and relatives. So I spend the morning
visiting them, enjoying coffee ceremonies.
When I tell them about the many
checkpoints, they explain: The war lasts to long for many youngsters. Some of
them are leaving the army and try to hide with their family. The checkpoints are
set up to find them. As long as the Ethiopians, the "Shifta Woyane", are
unwilling to cooperate to the international peace plans, the Eritreans are
unable to demobilize their defense forces*).
That many millions of (both
Ethiopian and Eritrean) people on the edge of starvation are paying the price of
the Ethiopian political game should worry those western politicians responsible for
millions of development aid (read: military aid) spent on Ethiopia. What's the
use trying to develop a nation, if it does not have the word "peace"
in its vocabulary?
Solomon has invited me to a
small party organized for the families living in an eight story housing
complex called "Asmara Palace". The women prepared a lunch of
injera and other traditional food. Solomon is also celebrating the fact
that he has been elected to be the area's representative in the local
government with an enormous tart.
By now, I know my way around Asmara,
and traveling from A to B, I change buses as if I lived here all my life. And
if I have any doubts, there is always someone willing to to help. I decide to
walk from the center of the city to Sembel. And I am lucky again, walking into
the first try-outs of the street parade, that is building up just outside the
Decorated trucks, music, school
children and students, either in traditional clothes, or grease-painted, form
one long row of celebrating groups, watched by thousands of people. And I am so
happy to be there on this moment. To share the joy of celebrating liberation.
These images will be carved into my memory and make my eyes wet.
We do not have to develop this
nation. Eritrea is very well capable to develop itself, its people being
its richest resource. The main precondition for this development is peace.
So if there is any "Woyanes"
reading these words, I hope your country will spend its budgets on feeding
your people, and will respect and implement the decisions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia
Walking to the Corea Housing
Complex, I find myself a stall to have my shoes polished. This evening
there will be a performance of Dehab Faytinga and Hellen Meles at the
compound of the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel, one of the other highlights
of my visit to Eritrea.
I visit Berhe Aiba's Night
Club, next to the Asmara Intercontinental, to have some beers to get into
the mood, and at 21:00 I join the crowd waiting for the performance of
their favorite singers. There is a 30 minutes try-out / warming up by one
of the local beauties, trying to draw the public to the stage, and
then the stage is for Dehab Faytinga.
Dehab Faytinga is not only one of best (maybe the
best) Eritrean singers, she is also a real ambassador for her country, promoting
environmental projects that could change the lives of millions of Africans, The Seawater
Forests' Initiative. SFI promotes
a natural system of mangroves forests that grow on sea water and can generate
sustained income, providing both timber and fodder for camels and goats, enrich the soil, create a rich habitat for birds and animals and absorb carbon dioxide produced by industrial countries, helping to prevent global warming.
When I ask to climb a few of the stairs to
the stage, to make a close up picture, the guards are very pertinent. No
audience is allowed near the stage. I realize that a lot of the visitors
must be true fans of Faytinga. So I have to use my zoom lens and some luck
to make some nice shots.
After midnight the stage is for Hellen Meles,
another famous Eritrean singer. She is dressed in a beautiful white dress,
decorated with black leather and white Red Sea shells, emphasizing her
Eritrean roots. I remember speaking to her a few minutes at the Eritrean
Festival in Utrecht Holland in 2003, when I told her that one time I would
meet her in Asmara. I guess she does not remember me, but I kept my
promise, although from a distance. Helen, I enjoyed your concert!
Children decorating the street
with little stones - Asmara Eritrea.
Decorated Ministry of
Education - Asmara Eritrea.
Children on their way to the
parades - Asmara Eritrea.
Street parade (Rashaida children) - Asmara Eritrea.
Street parade, celebrating 13
years independence - Asmara Eritrea.
Street parade (Nara women) - Asmara Eritrea.
Street parade (children in
traditional dress) - Asmara Eritrea.
Street parade (praying for
peace) - Asmara Eritrea.
The girls of the Berhe Aibai hotel and nightclub Asmara Eritrea.
Dehab Faytinga and her band singing
at the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel.
and her band
singing at the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel.
*) December 12, 2000 Eritrea
and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement in Algiers, after a 2
1/2-year border war.
Article 4, sub article 15 reads as follows: “The parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation
of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty
of the other party”.
On April 13th 2002 the Permanent
Court of Arbitration in The Hague published the conclusions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia
In September 2003 Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, formally informed the Security Council that Ethiopia rejected
the decisions of the International Boundary Commission (arbitration of the International Court in the Hague). He declared the proposed 1 000 km international border drafted by the commission as "null and void".
This disrespect of Ethiopia for the decisions of
the Court of Justice in The Hague has practically halted the peace process.