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(Avvenire) Opinion: Peace between Ethiopia-Eritrea

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Sunday, 10 June 2018

Peace between Ethiopia-Eritrea. From the Horn of Africa to the resignation

Mario GiroSaturday 9 June 2018

Dear Director,

perhaps we are really, as Avvenire has titled , on the eve of a turning point in the Horn of Africa : the Democratic Front in power in Ethiopia opens the full application of the peace agreement with Eritrea, signed in the distant 2000 and never fully implemented. Is peace back between the two important nations of East Africa? We can hope for this because the region has been troubled by too many crises and too long.

If Addis Ababa and Asmara reach a new phase of mutual understanding, many positive consequences can result. First of all for Somalia: an old fragmentation of over 25 years, surrounded by clan and local powers, always at risk of violence but at the same time connected to international trade of all kinds. That area, including the stretch of sea, has become one of the most dangerous on the planet. On the other hand, Ethiopia itself has recently had to deal with instability: the protests and ill humor of the Oromo, the largest population in the country, have undermined domestic cohabitation. And this also provoked a disruption in Ogaden, a border town of Somalia, with reciprocal unhappy influence. Addis Abeba has been intervening militarily for years in support of the government of Mogadishu, accusing Asmara of supporting shabaabs, what the latter has always denied. Those who know the area know that the jihadist insurgency has distant and more complex roots than the dispute between Fronti, but if a stalled situation ages without solutions, every adventurism is favored ...

In any case, all the crises in the region have been aggravated by the dispute between the two 'cousins' countries. Peace between Ethiopians and Eritreans would certainly give more vigor to the negotiating dynamics in Somalia and probably favor a resumption of negotiations between regions and with the central government, for a definitive structure. Until today, Asmara has opposed solutions that did not take its national interest into account. Peace between Addis Ababa and Amara may also mean an extra opening for the end of the violence in South Sudan and a better relationship with Sudan: together and not divided, the two nations could affect much more now. The same positive dynamic could affect the prosperous Yemen war, by which Asmara broke a ten-year isolation.

The benefits of a definitive peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea could also be socio-economic. In spite of all the two countries insist on the same market area, they have intertwined commercial interests and together they suffer from recent climate changes, such as those caused by El Niño. All this causes a continuous movement of populations, which also includes the flow of South Sudanese refugees, in search of cultivable areas. What happens in Oromia is not foreign to this evolution. Both countries need modern transport routes and means to open the large internal areas that are still completely isolated or almost like Oromia, but also Dancalia, Ogaden, etc. Outside the capitals and some cities, poverty is very present and the economy is totally informal. We need to rethink the agricultural model, given the permanence of a form of subsistence culture and without prospects. The reopening of trade between the two countries would favor a resumption of trade and a general decrease in poverty.

Finally, this peace would be a powerful message of political and symbolic value: if the old war between 'enemy cousins' ends, it means that every conflict can be blocked. As with the oldest war in Somalia, we all got used to the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, so much so as not to even remember the reasons. The separation between the two States and their lack of communication, is taken as a matter of fact, only a few still try to make them talk.

This peace would be a strong denial of this resignation, the same one that unfortunately faces too many international problems.

Former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
(Software translation)

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