Ethio-Eritrean Relations Revisited

As has been the case between the US and Cuba, who recently put aside 60 years of dispute to open progressive dialogue, Ethiopia and Eritrea could finally sit around the negotiating table once more. Indeed, there are no other countries in this part of Africa better suited to taking positive steps towards greater integration, peace and understanding. Ato Abay Tsehaye, one of the senior special advisors to the Prime Minister, could well be the man to steer the ship in this direction.

Ato Abay Tsehaye, one of the senior special advisors to the Prime Minister, allegedly posed an unguarded warning to the Oromia officials and their hierarchy a few months ago. He has been discrete so far about the alleged Eritrean provocation. I say “alleged” because there was no visible evidence for me to witness as a factual matter. He advised all concerned to keep restraint, rather than become impulsively engaged.

What struck me most was his analogy of how many lives and properties could be lost if Ethiopia and Eritrea were to embark on yet another atrocious war at a time when both countries have other more urgent responsibilities to carry out. I am not sure if we have forgotten the 1998-2000 Badime conflict, when Ethiopians from all parts of the country were shoving shoulder to shoulder, queuing up forcibly to be taken to the war front, when the short recruitment time was finished. I have never seen such kind of voluntary dedication and commitment to reply to the call of the motherland.

Ato Abay, it can be said, has become the real navigator, sitting on the navigational tower behind the pilot to guide the plane. This is only to be expected from the chief guide, rather than the Prime Minister sitting behind the steering wheel.

War is never as cheap and simple as a luxurious weekend pastime or something one can do away with. The Badime engagement was a civil war in which over 70 thousand people paid with their dear lives. What was regrettable was the agreement signed in Algiers as a lasting agreement that is never to be appealed.

The decision of the agreement was rather difficult to understand. Would that kind of a national call be met with a similar response?

In this regard, Ato Abay’s speculations about the consequences could be taken as a wiser guess. There are many political observers who tend not to believe what he says judging from previous experiences. But then there are chances that he could prove what he says to be true if he could convince some of the other high notch TPLF officials. He could then use the leverage of his advisory post to progress step by step towards resuming negotiations with Eritrean officials as soon as possible.

Sixteen years is too long a period of time to tolerate waiting in a “no war, no peace” deadlock. Ato Abay should carefully review where things went wrong. On the part of the President of Eritrea, Isayas Afeworki, he should try to keep up with the present situations and be able to make good for the generation of tomorrow. It is about time that leaders of both countries came to their senses and realised that the demands of the 21st century are not yet obsolete. There is still enough time to make unforgettable history for both their peoples, respectively.

The basic heritage

our forbearers have bequeathed us with is not only the goal to be free from the yoke of colonialism and exploitation by our former colonial powers. but to be completely free to form a United States of Africa.

There are no countries better than Ethiopia and Eritrea to take the first practical and reliable step towards an integrated political and economic union in this part of Africa. This could be in the form of a confederation or some kind of union, to be agreed upon.

The way to start this move could simply be sitting around the table and working out some kind of road map to revitalising the ministerial commission, comprising political and trade commissioners, while discussing the possibilities of finding common ground in settling outstanding problems.

Should the two neighbouring countries decide to start negotiations, there is no better situation than the structural readiness of the two countries. There is the 1,080km road between them; Ethiopian Airlines could revive its former daily flight to Asmara; Ethiopians and Eritreans could make direct telephone calls between them.

The people along the border of both countries can exchange trade between them. Whether it is for emergency freight or the strength along the coast, the two nations can use the Assab and Massaw ports for the benefit of the two nations. We should ensure that the Red Sea is kept free from pirates, as was the case some time ago.

The United States government has brokered peace with Cuba after 60 years of isolation. I see no reason why Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot make peace between them.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Aug 02,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 848]



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