The recent peace deal in the horn of Africa has sparked hope regionally and internationally. Eritrea and Ethiopia were at war from 1998-2000 because of disagreement over the exact location of the border between them. They haven’t fully been able to make peace since then.
On 16 September, after decades of tension, conflict and stalemate, the two countries signed a peace deal, making history and sparking hope for change and cross-border reconciliation.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Much of the success of the deal is down to the new personality and approach of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr. Abiy Ahmed, who has been more effective than his predecessors in enacting the peace he called for. In July he embraced the Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki with warmth after the two leaders met in Asmara, the Eritrean capital. They vowed to end the feud with a televised declaration ‘there is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea’ because ‘we have built a bridge of love’. In recognition of their efforts, the leaders were recently awarded gold medals for their resolve after meeting in Saudi Arabia.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE AND RECONCILIATION
Their economies stand to benefit too, starting with Ethiopia’s promise to buy 20% of Eritrean Airlines. On 11 September, coincidentally on the same day as Ethiopian New Year, the land border crossing was reopened after 20 years. This allowed for the reignition of trade as well as the emotional reunions of families and friends previously split up by the conflict. They can also now call and fly to one another.
There is also hope for reform under Isaias Afwerki’s one-party state, which has been sustained by the large army that was justified by the Ethiopian threat. This accompanies a hope for the release of prisoners and an end of the indefinite conscription of those 18-50 in Eritrea, but it is yet to be determined whether this will happen.
The true outcome of this deal is to be seen, but for now, for Africa and for the rest of the world, it sets an example of effective and efficient diplomacy, and bold leadership.