After almost twenty years of a resentful stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the recently elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, announced that the government will fully accept the previously unrecognized 2000 Algiers peace agreement.
Despite the bitter dispute over the border town of Badme, the new Ethiopian administration is acknowledging the futility of disagreement between the two societies, with Fitsum Arega, the PM’s chief of staff tweeting “Ethiopia and Eritrea have the most unique cultural, historical and blood ties.
The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked.
This must change for the sake of our common good,” Ethiopia’s unilateral decision was met with a quiet Eritrea, and after two weeks of silence, President Isaias Afwerki announced Eritrea will be sending a delegation to Addis Ababa for peace talks.
Following in the vein of Arega’s comment, President Afwerki said “The Eritrean people, but also the Ethiopian people, have lost an opportunity of two generations for over half a century,”
This is truly a major story for the African continent, as a functional peace agreement between the two countries has extensive ramifications: with no conflict, Eritrea has no reason to continue repressive militarization and authoritarianism, and opens the possibility of political liberalization. That said, Ethiopian residents of Badme, many of whom are combat veterans, are rejecting the idea of handing over the town to Eritrea, and are viewing the move as an act of betrayal despite their sacrifices- 50,000 Ethiopian service members are commemorated in a nearby cemetery.
Reuters reports protests in the Tigray region, which complicates political cohesion and Mr. Ahmed’s extensive economic and social initiatives. This is a marked contrast to the international applause which Mr. Ahmed has received.
AP, Reuters, CNN, The NYT, and The Washington Post have all extensively reported on Ahmed’s statements regarding the potential peace agreement, as well as his comments regarding economic liberalization, including privatization of various public enterprises, such as the vaunted Ethiopian Airlines.
CNN has called his first months in office “stellar”, and American media across the board is gushing over the new direction Addis Ababa appears to be taking.
If Mr. Ahmed is sincere in his intentions, and is able to assuage the fears of protesting Ethiopians, Ethiopia may quickly rise to becoming a regional influencer and model for East Africa and beyond. As Africa’s second most populous state and one of the fastest growing economies, this is a story worth following by American media.