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Ethiopia and Eritrea formally end a long-lasting state of war


Yonas Tadesse | AFP

John Burger - published on 07/11/18

If peace holds in spite of lingering feelings about disputed border, it could benefit the entire Horn of Africa.

The leaders of two rival African nations have signed an agreement putting an end to the state of war that has existed between them.

According to Reuters, Eritrea’s minister of information Yemane Meskel said the state of war that existed between his country and Ethiopia “has come to an end.”

A deal  signed in Eritrea’s capital on Monday, a day after a summit between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afkwerki, means that “a new era of peace and friendship has been ushered,” Meskel tweeted. “Both countries will work to promote close cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural and security areas.”

During a state dinner to welcome the Ethiopian delegation Sunday, Prime Minister Ahmed announced the two countries have agreed to reopen embassies and ports and allow flight operations to strengthen diplomatic ties between them, CNN reported.

The development came about after an announcement in June by Ethiopia’s ruling party that it planned to fully implement a peace deal reached with Eritrea in 2000 known as the Algiers Agreement, including a key ruling on borders from 2003 that Ethiopia originally rejected, the news site explained.

From the beginning of May 1998 to the end of May 2000, the two Horn of Africa nations fought a bloody border war, which ended with the defeat of Eritrea and with as many as 70,000 to 80,000 casualties.The violence also resulted in at least 650,000 internally displaced people.

When Abiy took office in April, he appealed to the Eritrean government to solve “years of misunderstanding.” Recent weeks have seen increased diplomatic efforts between the two countries, CNN reported.

As Aleteia explained last week:

The beginning of this turn of events was an initiative of the government of the new Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The reform-minded politician, born to a Muslim father and an Amhara Orthodox Christian mother, announced last June 5 that he wanted to fully accept and implement the Algiers Peace Agreement, which ended the war between the two countries in December 2000. The first politician from the Oromo people to govern the country also declared that he accepts the arbitration of the Eritrea-Ethiopia boundary Commission (EEBC). Created by the Hague after the Algiers Agreement, this international, neutral commission granted the contested territory of Badme to Eritrea in April 2001 with a “final and binding” decision. What had triggered the war in May 1998 was precisely the occupation of Badme by Eritrean armed forces.

But Monday’s agreement needs to be accepted by certain sectors of the population. Abiy’s decision to give the city of Badme is unpopular in northern Ethiopia, especially in the Tigray region, which borders on Eritrea. In the city of Badme itself, where many Ethiopian veterans from the war live, the reactions are negative. “Why did we fight for it then to just give it away? All this sacrifice for nothing? For this?” a veteran said. For many inhabitants of Badme, continues, ceding the city to Eritrea “is an insult to the living and the dead.”

But a lasting peace would certainly have dividends. Ethiopia and Eritrea have fought a proxy war in Somalia, where the Asmara regime has supported the al-Shabaab terrorist organization. If the peace deal holds, the entire Horn of Africa could benefit in the long run.

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