Hope in the Horn as Eritrea-Ethiopia thaw takes shape

2018-06-20 17:53
iStock

iStock

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Eritrea's president broke weeks of silence on Wednesday to respond positively to conciliatory overtures from bitter foe Ethiopia, raising hopes of a fresh start in the Horn of Africa.

A brutal, fruitless border conflict between the two countries ended nearly two decades ago. Since then, both have maintained a war footing with shots occasionally fired, and backed each other's rebels.

Their long cold war has stymied economic development, frozen political relations and helped justify domestic repression - but it may now be thawing, thanks to an unprecedented concession from Ethiopia, long demanded by Eritrea.

On June 5, new prime minister Abiy Ahmed announced earlier that his country would at last abide by a 2002 international ruling that gave the disputed town of Badme, and other territory, to Eritrea.

On Wednesday, Eritrea's 72-year-old president, Isaias Afwerki, a military leader who has ruled since 1993, responded cautiously but positively to Ethiopia's olive branch.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

"We will send a delegation to Addis Ababa to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action," Isaias said in a Martyrs' Day speech commemorating those killed in the drawn-out struggle for separation from Ethiopia.

It is unclear when the delegation will travel to Ethiopia, but Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa director at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank in Nairobi, said a glittering opportunity was within reach.

"Both countries should seize this historic chance to engage in serious dialogue to find a lasting peace settlement to the border conflict," he said.

Isaias stopped short of calling it a peace delegation and had bitter words for the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) - a faction of Ethiopia's ruling ethnic coalition that wields influence in both politics and security.

"Ethiopia is now at a turning point," he said. "(...) Although it will require time and efforts to remove the TPLF's toxic and malignant legacy and to bring about a congenial climate, the positive direction that has been set in motion is crystal clear."

Isaias warned some hardliners in Ethiopia would seek "the perpetuation of tension with Eritrea" and to frustrate efforts towards "a durable solution to the senseless border conflict that they unleashed".

Rapid change

The Red Sea nation of Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline until 1993 when it voted for independence from its southern neighbour, rendering Ethiopia landlocked.

In 1998 a disagreement over the demarcation of their shared border sparked war, leaving about 80 000 people dead. A UN-backed boundary commission in 2002 divided up contested territory between the two countries, but Ethiopia rejected the ruling.

Isaias has long justified restrictive rule, punishing military conscription and the jailing of dissidents as necessities to defend itself against its much larger neighbour.

His authoritarian leadership has left his country diplomatically isolated and burdened by sanctions, and triggered an exodus of Eritreans, many of them making the dangerous migration to Europe.

A potential thaw in relations with the United States too was signalled in April when Donald Yamamoto, Donald Trump's top Africa diplomat, paid a surprise visit to Asmara.

Abiy, 41, has moved fast since his April swearing-in to end years of anti-government protests and maintain fast but faltering economic growth.

He has released jailed politicians and journalists, admitted that security forces tortured dissidents, moved to liberalise the state-controlled economy, backed down in the long-running dispute with Eritrea and embarked on an energetic diplomatic tour of the region.

Read more on:    abiy ahmed  |  isaias afwerki  |  ethiopia  |  eritrea  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 000.00 Per Year

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.