Eritrea: National Service Program and Development

Eritrea: National Service Program and Development

Yosief A. Zomo

I would like to start this article by asking why the National Service Program (NSP) of Eritrea has been used as a political tool to undermine the national sovereignty and development goals of Eritrea.
In Eritrea, NSP and development are two inseparable pillars of national sovereignty, defense, and development programs. As Eritrea cannot exist without a national sovereignty and defense capability, so does its national sovereignty without the NSP and development programs. Unfortunately, and for ill-intentioned political purposes, so much has been said to intimidate the National Service Program of Eritrea depicting by some institutionalized self-serving organizations and the COI on human rights in Eritrea as “forced labor and slavery”. The missing part that those forces that undermine the NSP intentionally hide is, that the National Service Program is a legally instituted program designed to serve the national sovereignty and development programs of Eritrea.

According to Proclamation 82/1995, the objective of the National Service Program of Eritrea is to “create a new generation characterized by love of work, discipline, ready to participate and serve in the reconstruction of the nation [and] to develop and enforce the economy of the nation by investing in development …” From the Proclamation, it is not difficult to understand the ways the Program benefits both the people and the country of Eritrea. Most members of the National Service Program, as a new generation of independent Eritrea, has benefited themselves from the program because as stated in the Proclamation and practically implemented, the Program intends to “develop and enforce the economy of the nation by investing in development work our people as a potential wealth.” In this case the NSP is designed to invest in the Eritrean people as human potential wealth of the country. Eritrea has also benefited from the program because the NSP is directly connected to the development goals of the country. If we are to say Eritrea’s economy has been doing well, we should not miss the NSP is one of the core forces that contributed for such success. As several bodies of the United Nations has witnessed, Eritrea has been able to achieve significant progress in its social and economic development goals. Besides, as many proud members of the NSP have witnessed to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, no one can express enough the contribution of the NSP that can even be demonstrated as a good example for other developing countries. Therefore, viewing Eritrea under the NSP, it is not acceptable by any standard to undermine the contribution of the Program while even the United Nations itself has been applauding Eritrea for its current stage of remarkable achievement, promising progress, and bright future. Moreover, Eritrea has been the only country in the Horn of Africa that has maintained a stable and peaceful progress with active participation of its National Service members who contributed significantly to the unity and solidarity of the people of Eritrea that has positive impact on the stability of the Horn of Africa. Nonetheless, it is true that in past couple of years, the National Service Program has been extended for some period of time. Unlike Proclamation 82/1995, that says, “Active National Service consists of … a total of 18 months,” the Program has been extended for more than 18 months for a clear and known fact that the international community failed to shoulder its responsibility, and particularly, the Security Council of the United Nations that welcomed and supported the peace agreement between Eritrean and Ethiopia, but never took action against Ethiopia that has violated the peace agreement since the very beginning of the border clash. By a fair, just, and legal measures, Eritrea cannot be blamed for the extension of the National Service Program because the Proclamation says the National Service Program has the responsibility to defend the national sovereignty of Eritrea, and now has been consistently threatened due to Ethiopia’s aggression, ongoing threat, and illegal occupation of the sovereign territories of Eritrea. Hence, the unfounded allegations that misrepresent the National Service Program of Eritrea should be rejected as they are unfounded and politically motivated .