Building a New Nation
This two-volume collection of Connell’s writings, spanning a quarter-century, recounts the experience of Eritrea’s protracted independence war and its postliberation transition to statehood. Building a New Nation opens with coverage of the devastating Africa-wide famine of the mid-1980s and runs through the aftermath of the 1998-2000 Border War with Ethiopia.
New introductions to each thematic section set the context—personal and political—for the reportage. The two-volume anthology provides a unique record of the birth of this culturally diverse new nation, the evolution of the political movement that led it, and the challenges faced by the reporter who covered it, starting in April 1976, when Connell slipped into Eritrea’s besieged capital, Asmara, and witnessed the assassination of a top-ranking Ethiopian official and its bloody aftermath—the summary execution of dozens of innocent civilians.
His front page account in The Washington Post broke Ethiopia’s long-standing information blockade. Connell went on to write about the radical social transformation underway in guerilla-held areas, the near defeat of Ethiopia’s American-backed army, the intervention of the Soviet Union, the liberation movement’s strategic retreat, the onset of famine, the final Eritrean victory, the effort to reconstruct and develop the war ravaged new state, the renewal of fighting with Ethiopia, and the economic and political setbacks that followed. Often his was the only voice outsiders heard or read on events in Eritrea. In an Introduction, he explains why he became a fierce critic of the movement he so long supported. In a Preface to both volumes, Basil Davidson endorses Connell's critique.