There is – after so many years – a chink of light in relations between Addis Ababa and Asmara. Speaking at his inauguration Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed promised to end ‘years of misunderstanding.’ [see below]
This is most welcome. Nothing really stands between the peoples of the two countries.
The cold peace between their leaders can be traced back to the border war of 1998 – 2000. At the end of the war the Algiers peace was signed – requiring both sides to abide by the findings of a Boundary Commission which would define where the border lay. This was duly completed, only for Ethiopia to insist that further discussions be held. This Eritrea refused – as they had every right to do.
The Algiers peace agreement required that both sides to accept the ruling of the Boundary Commission.
This is what both countries signed up to: “The parties agree that a neutral Boundary Commission composed of five members shall be established with a mandate to delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law. The Commission shall not have the power to make decisions ex aequo et bono…The parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined, as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other party.”
All that is really required is for Ethiopia to end its prevarication and allow the border, which has been legally delimited, to become the de facto boundary between the two countries. This may not be easy. It may divide villages. It could split farms. But it is what both nations signed up to: the phrase “ex aequo et bono” means that the decision had to be taken purely on legal grounds, without recourse to fairness or equity.
That is what Isaias Afwerki and Meles Zenawi agreed upon: no-one can now complain that it is not fair.
If this obstacle can be removed then almost anything is possible.
Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wants to resolve Eritrea disputes
Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has pledged his readiness to resolve disputes with neighbour Eritrea.
Speaking on state television after his swearing-in ceremony, Mr Ahmed called for an end to “years of misunderstandings”.
“I call on the Eritrean government to take the same stand,” he said.
The two countries have had poor relations since a two-year border war, which claimed 70,000 lives.
Mr Ahmed was chosen to lead the ruling coalition after the unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February.
He is Ethiopia’s first Oromo leader – an ethnic group which has been at the centre of anti-government protests since 2016.
State television channel ETV broadcast his speech live after he was sworn in.
Mr Ahmed said the country was ready to resolve differences between the two peoples, who are “not only intertwined in interests but also in blood”.
“We will stand by our African brothers in general and our neighbours in particular, during good and bad at times,” he said.
Mr Desalegn, while in power, had accused Eritrea of backing anti-government protests in the country.
Eritrea has made no comment since Mr Ahmed was nominated to replace Mr Desalegn.
The two countries fought a bloody two-year struggle between 1998 and 2000. Eritrea had previously fought a 30-year independence campaign against Ethiopia after its annexation in 1962.
Ethiopia still occupies land at the heart of the conflict, around the town of Badme.