The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace declaration stating that war efforts have ceased between the two countries. Although peace accords were agreed on to end the border disputes between 1998 and 2000, the peace deal was never fully implemented and tension remained between Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to the BBC, the countries agreed to re-establish trade routes and diplomacy and immediately allowed communication between citizens of either country. Families divided by the conflict have since begun to phone each other for the time in decades. Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met for the first time in roughly 20 years at a summit in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital. Per Al Jazeera, Abiy Ahmed plans to implement the agreement as soon as possible to “make up for lost opportunities.” Ethiopia and Eritrea are among the poorest countries in Africa and each spent millions of dollars on military efforts both during the war and throughout the 18-year military standoff. The successful implementation will act as a beam of hope for conflicts around the world, and throughout Africa.
The first flight in decades between Eritrea and Ethiopia in decades will also occur later this month. “With the opening of a new chapter of peace and friendship between the two sisterly countries, we look forward to starting flights to Asmara with the B787,” said Ethiopian Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam. “The resumption of air links will play a critical role in boosting the overall political, economic, trade and people-to-people ties between the two sisterly countries.” Both leaders in their countries as well as the United Nations applaud the agreement and look forward to the future of the region, with Secretary-General António Guterres calling the peace agreement “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing across Africa.” According to the Associated Press, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed himself was once a soldier and leaders around the world were shocked by his change of attitude towards Eritrea. He said, “The march toward peace might have been a long time coming but we have faith in the love and solidarity of our people … We can now imagine a future where we see no national boundaries or high walls dividing us. The people of our region are joined in common purpose.” President Afwerki has a similar attitude towards the next step in peace implementation and looks forward to the future. “The Eritrean people have today got the chance to express their true love and emotion for Ethiopians,” said Afwerki. “We can imagine that the decisions the prime minister of Ethiopia took was not a simple one. But we can assure you we will face the future together. We will work as one.”
The newly established friendship between Ethiopia and Eritrea sets an example for Africa as conflicts around the continent slowly continue to end. Stemming back to the 1885 Berlin Conference, many civil and interstate conflicts have occurred because warring ethnic groups and tribes were turned into countrymen after European leaders created national borders. In Eritrea, a minority ethnic group is protesting the peace deal, but generally both countries are celebrating the momentous occasion and looking forward to a cooperation that will significantly benefit both countries. Both the President and Prime Minister of their respective countries ought to be internationally celebrated following the summit that ended the long conflict.
Shortly after gaining its independence from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Ethiopia began fighting over the established border. An accurate number of casualties is not available, but estimates range from 80,000 to 150,000 in the short feud with one of the worst migration and refugee crises in modern history. According to Al Jazeera, many Ethiopians left the country due to the mandatory service laws in place to avoid serving in the military. Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa and with no access to the Red Sea via Eritrea, its economy crashed. Eritrea has a 715-mile border with the Red Sea and with the implemented peace treaty, trade should vastly increase between and for both countries.
It is extremely likely that the peace will last between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Ethiopia was once one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and now that it can focus on its economy and domestic issues rather than military buildup, there is a hope for it to return to its past success. Similarly, Eritrea has spent most of its history as a nation-state in war with Ethiopia, but will now look to the future in cooperation with regional as well as international actors to improve its current domestic situation.