Ethiopia and Eritrea have forged peace after a stalemate in their relations. Since 2000, the Horn of Africa nations have been in a state of “No war, no peace”, a situation that crippled their economies and divided families. So the warming of relations is indeed a welcome development.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, played a crucial role in the detente. Abu Dhabi played host to leaders from the countries, facilitating talks that paved the way for the peace accord. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held a discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki that helped iron out their differences.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said the rapprochement was a result of the efforts made by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the reconciliation was “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing across Africa”.
“The march towards peace might have been a long time coming, but we have faith in the love and solidarity of our people,” Ahmad said. “We can now imagine a future where we see no national boundaries or high walls dividing us. The people of our region are joined in common purpose.”
Two weeks after the two nations signed a peace deal on July 9, their leaders made another trip to Abu Dhabi, this time as friends. Shaikh Mohammad appreciated their efforts to normalise relations and bestowed on them the Order of Zayed.
Such efforts are vital to achieving comprehensible and sustainable development for all the people globally, Shaikh Mohammad said. “This would help establish security and stability and bring in development to this important region,” he added.
Solving the conflict in a short time was unthinkable. The two countries had fought a bloody two-year war (1998-2000), that killed more than 80,000 people besides displacing at least 350,000. A Cold War-like atmosphere prevailed for nearly two decades after a border commission set up under the peace agreement ruled that the flashpoint town of Badme was part of Eritrea. Ethiopia refused to accept this and relations remained frozen.
The two leaders have now pledged to implement the commission’s decision as part of the peace agreement. Ethiopia asked the United States to lift sanctions on Eritrea and the positive step set in motion a series of confidence-building measures. The two nations will reopen embassies and the border between them. Direct telecommunication services have been restored and commercial flights began operations last week. Plans are now afoot to resume diplomatic, trade and transport links.
So the spinoff from peace is an economic revival in both the countries. Ethiopia’s Ahmad has already lifted a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and unveiled economic reforms.
The deal was important for the stability and security of the region. Extremist elements and terrorists had taken advantage of the enmity to spread their agenda and ideas besides carrying out criminal activities. The absence of political will made their task easier. The successful mediation, therefore, is a powerful blow to all those players who used the conflict to serve their selfish interests. Arab states and the countries in the region suffered the most. Now they can breathe easy.
Dr Salem Al Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst, researcher and opinion writer.