Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations
In a historic moment in the year 2018, Eritrea-Ethiopia relations were finally reinstated with the opening of the border between the two former rivals. The landmark occurrence finally signaled an end to the nearly two-decade-long conflict and regional destabilization in the Horn of Africa. It also provides equally strong potential for poverty alleviation as 70 percent of the Eritrean population continues to live under poverty.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations

To provide historical context, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war that resulted in casualties of nearly 80,000 in 1998. Despite the signing of the Algiers Agreement between the two countries in 2000, leaders of the previous administrations refused to reinstate ties till the agreement made between Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias in July 2018. Ethiopia also began withdrawing its troops from the Eritrean border in December 2018.

Ethiopia continues to condemn Eritrea of backing rebel groups in the Afar region as well as undermines and opposes the government seated in the Eritrea capital of Asmara. Owing to the fact that Ethiopia refused to acknowledge the joint Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), Eritrea began to stir up support among rebel groups like the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Bridging the Divide

Eritrea has been accused of gross human rights violations and condemned for its suspension of the constitution and ban on press freedom. Ethiopia, in turn, is accused of similar actions and has tried to suppress protest movements that have echoed across the country in recent times.

However, the new open borders between the two countries could bridge shortages and deficiencies that Eritreans previously faced as they will have access to Ethiopian markets, goods and services. Cross border trade between the two countries may begin to flourish as lorries have already started transporting goods like construction cables and cement to and from Ethiopia. Additionally, Ethiopia will also now have access to Eritrea’s ports which will help maximize the benefits of new sea trade.

The newly forged Eritrea-Ethiopia relations is also a good sign for neighboring towns along the border between the two countries as families and communities plagued by conflict can finally unite and celebrate their shared culture, heritage and language.

Reintegration and Renewed Hope

The new budding diplomatic relationship also resulted in Eritrea’s reintegration — particularly with the country’s readmission into the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The possibility of joint-development programs between the two countries could boost economic and financial potential along with the collaboration of financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A report by the Guardian in 2018 remarked that the move was akin to “…the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only amplified 1,000 times.”

Moreover, the move may also hint at a possible solution for the Eritrean refugee crisis as refugees can now cross the borders safely to seek a new home. The UNHCR also reported an increase in the number of refugees arriving at the border since its reopening.

Overall, the renewal in Eritrea-Ethiopia relations will maintain regional stability and provide an impetus to resolve similar border conflicts and proxy wars. The noteworthy historic move may help build a strong foundation for further development and prosperity for Eritrea in the long run and hopefully reinstate its reputation and influence on a global scale.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Google

Ethiopian-Eritrean Border
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia announced that after 16 years of what the BBC has called a “no peace no war” stalemate between the nation and its neighbor Eritrea, Ethiopia will finally accept the Algiers Agreement — a treaty to bring peace to the Horn of Africa and the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute.

History of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute

Ethiopia and Eritrea split into two nations after nearly 30 years of brutal civil war that resulted in Eritrea’s declaring independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Despite this conclusion, peace was short-lived. From 1998-2000, fighting resumed between the two nations over a border dispute centered around both nations’ claim to the town of Badme.

The dispute was rooted in the nations’ differing interpretation of colonial documents demarcating the line between Ethiopia and its subsidiary Eritrea. The Ethiopian-Eritrean 1998-2002 war became Africa’s bloodiest border war on record; in just two years, an estimated 80,000 people lost their lives.

The war culminated in the creation of the December 12, 2000 Algiers Agreement, which stated that both nations would cease fighting and accept the verdict offered by the newly created Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC).

In 2002, the EEBC ruled that the disputed towns along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, Badme among others, belonged to Eritrea. Under its former, and now deceased, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia accepted the EEBC’s ruling only “in principle” which lead to the “no peace no war” stalemate that has characterized the Horn of Africa ever since.

Although the Algiers Agreement stated that the two nations would end all hostilities and accept the ruling of the EEBC, Ethiopia refused to pull its troops out of the border towns it still claimed ownership over. Occasional deadly clashes have continued to plague the Ethiopian-Eritrean border region ever since; the most recent occurred in June of 2016, when fighting at Badme resulted in several hundred deaths.

Ethiopia Accepts the Algiers Agreement

However, the hostile climate along Ethiopian-Eritrean border may have just changed. On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia, under its current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, announced that it would officially accept the border decision of the 2000 Algiers Agreement and remove all Ethiopian troops from Badme and the other contested towns.

At his inauguration this past April, Ahmed vowed to improve relations between his nation and Eritrea, and his pledge to end all hostilities over the Ethiopian-Eritrean border dispute was an unexpectedly large step in this direction.

Looking Forward

Ending border hostilities could be a huge leap forward in ensuring peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa. The Eritrean government has long justified its authoritarian and militaristic regime as necessary to protect Eritreans from the continued hostilities of its neighbor Ethiopia, but as Abraham T. Zere of Al Jazeera wrote, “Today, there is a real opportunity to reach a peaceful resolution of this long-standing conflict.”

With Ethiopia offering up the potential for peace, Eritrea has the chance to accept this olive branch and move forward to create a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr