Eritrea: It's Sept. 1, Day of the 1st bullet that led to independence
September 1 also known as Bahti Meskerem in local language marks the Day the first bullet was fired on September 1, 1961 to herald the absolute determination of the people of Eritrea to wage an armed struggle against whomever and whatever stands in their way for their legitimate and inalienable right to pursue a politically independent and self-governing political existence that has been denied to them 20 years then.
The day September 1, 1961 marks the spark that galvanized the people of Eritrea to pick up arms to attain what has been denied to them: National Independence and commemorates the valor of those who were first to sacrifice their lives towards that effect. Eritreans including members of thr EPLF flocked in droves and an armed resistance front was born. Whether then those who signaled the beginning of armed resistence also possessed military, organizational, or political skills necessary to manage and lead the resulting large resistence army was an issue that was dealt with and resolved militarily in later years and has nothing to do with Bahti Meskerem and hence cannot be used to discredit what the actions of Awate and his group attained: They got the armed resistance started at the cost of their own lives. And they get credit for that regardless. Wiht all due respect, there was no EPLF in 1961. Hence, like it or not, Bahti Meskerem is all about Awate's group and the ELF.
Like all the countries in Africa, Eritrea was first established as a distinct colonial territory (Nation State) as a result of the 19th century colonialists' "Scramble for Africa"; but unlike all such colonial territories, which were disposed of as self-governing and politically independent sovereign States at the end of colonialism, Eritrea was denied national independence for 50 years simply because Eritrea's enviable geopolitical and strategic location was coveted by regional and global forces and Ethiopia's expansionist dreams. For a small country with a population of barely over 3.5 million, Eritrea's national independence was attained the hardest way and with no precedence or parallel in the annals of colonial history. Our struggle for national independence bears emotional significance that is cumulatively expressed by the following historical dates:
Eritrea's rightful struggle for national independence had a decisive and gutsy beginning (Bahti Meskerem, September 1st, 1961), a happy and victorious ending (Independence Day, May 24, 1991), and tragic human consequences (Martyrs' Day, June 20). Those three holidays are inextricably bound to each other and cannot be considered in isolation: There is no end without beginning, and there is no gain without pain, as they say! People make history; and those who made history may or may not have perished, but history is cruel and cannot be erased; it will remember them for what they did or didn't do regardless whether others like it or not. All Eritreans associate themselves with these holidays for they all have participated and contributed to the struggle for our national independence, and no political or non-political group has a proprietary right to those holidays for they involve all Eritreans. Hence, politicizing any of those holidays would be egregious, selfish, and blatant denial of the very Eritrea that we call home today and negation of one's Eritrean-ness because non of those holidays could ever be the cause or contributory to whatever dissatisfaction people may or may not have post independence.
This year, Eritreans commemorate the 45th anniversary of the issue at hand, Bahti Meskerem, September 1st. After all of 20 years of peaceful means to attain Eritrea's legitimate quest for national independence had failed and faced with the deaf ears of the international community, a group of 15 valiant Eritrean Martyrs under the leadership of the gallant Martyr Hamid Idris Awate risked life and limb and decided to respond forcefully to Ethiopia's forceful occupation of our country, Eritrea, and engaged them in a battle at a mountainside called Adal (Western Eritrea), where and when the first bullet against the enemy was fired. The first bullet sent a shock wave to the enemy camp and sparked Eritrea's protracted armed struggle for national right ultimately leading to Eritrea's national independence on May 24, 1991.Thus, Bahti Meskerem, September 1st constitutes the birthday of Eritrea's armed struggle for national independence. It is the day when Eritrea was conceived to be born on May 24, 1991, when it had to be born. On this day we commemorate, pay tribute, and express gratitude to those valiant Martyrs who were the first to put their life on line for our country's sake. We also celebrate this day because it led to the emergence of a country that we have proudly come to call home today.
Having said that, although all three national holidays enjoy equal holiday status on paper, in practice Bahti Meskerem gets the least attention. Although Bahti Meskerem was the only holiday we commemorated pre-independence, it doesn't get even a fraction of the attention of the weeklong preparation, media blitz, and hoopla of Independence Day or the magnificent commemoration of Martyrs Day, not to mention the months long, feel-good, and party-time extravaganza known as Eritrea Festivals? It appears that Bahti Meskerem is observed merely because it is marked on the holiday calendar, for there is almost no time left to prepare for it since the Festival season extends to/beyond Augut 31. This is simply not right. Bahti Meskerem must be given equal and due attention like all other national holidays. There must be enough time to prepare for it. It is unfair to squeeze it between couple of days and to subject it to symbolic observance. It all smells like an attempt to belittle the significance of this day is at work. For example, although it is a national holiday, there is no mention of those who took the lead in the launching of Eritrea's armed struggle even as a token in the government website (shabait.com) and the official website of the ruling party (PFDJ). Therein lies the sense that there is an attempt to belittle the significance of this day for fear that it might undermine/overshadow EPLF's own accomplishments when there is no reason for that?
Bahti Meskerem is an inextricable part of the history of Eritrea. It is not and will not go away and cannot be done away with for history is not forgiving.
In closing, since Independence Day is symbolized by the huge Sandals, would it be asking for too much if Bahti Meskerem, were to be symbolized by a statue of the valiant Martyr Hamid Idris Awate?
Nota Bene: Like all other countries as we see them today, Eritrea's fate was already determined at the time it was established as a colony. By virtue of the way they were established (Nation States with legally secured territorial sovereignty), colonial territories were destined to pursue a politically independent and self-governing poltical existance at the end of colonialism. National independece of Eritrea is hence an entitlement and not something that needs to be voted on or determined via a referendum or requires the permission/consent of others because at the end of Colonialism no one has sovereignty over Eritrea but Eritreans themselves, who demanded National Independece immediately following the end of Italian colonialism.
Unless people want to legitimize the forced linkage with Ethiopa, aka "Federation", or validate and justify Ethiopia's forcefull annexation, Eritrea is not a case of self-determination but a case of forceful flatout denial of Eritrea's entitlement to national independence.
Long live the spirit of Bahti Meskerem
Everlasting glory and fame to our valiant Martyrs Hamind Idris Awate and his group
United we succeed, divided we fail
Eritrera will prevail
Hamid Idris Awate (September 1, 1961)
Valiant Hamid Idris Awate (Bahti Meskerem, September 1, 1961)
Martyrs Day (20 June)