You could think there were two old Obliga friends who met after having been apart for a long time, so amicably and cheerfully it looked. The world could barely believe its eyes when Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki was welcomed royally by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, when he landed in Addis Ababa for visit only a week after the conclusion of the peace Agreement.
The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia came unexpectedly and has shaken the geopolitical power relations in the Horn of Africa. The conflict has been one of Africa’s longest and has had a negative impact on peace, security and development in the whole region for a long time. It started already in the 1950 century. Between 1998 and 2000, bloody war reigned after a border dispute and upwards of 100 000 people lost their lives. International mediation succeeded in getting to the end of fire and agreement that a UN commission would decide the demarcation. When the Commission stated that the area of Badme would belong to Eritrea, Ethiopia refused to agree to this. The conflict consisted.
But in just a few months these archenemies have gone from not even allowing telephone connections between countries to express themselves in terms of ‘ we are a people ‘.
Ethiopia’s new prime minister since April this year is a strong contributory factor. Not only has he agreed to let Badme belong to Eritrea, he has also embarked on a major reform programmes with libertarian focus. He has praised democracy, liberalised the economy by permitting private ownership in former state monopolies and, moreover, freed political prisoners.
Afewerki has ruled Eritrea with an iron fist, political oppression and isolation. The country has also maintained a very strong defence, which cost the state huge sums of money, and the often inhumanly long compulsory military service for men has meant that many have fled the country.
Ethiopia took the economic baton many years ago and has been in the forefront since then. Ethiopia has currently the strongest growing economy in Africa. Politically and economically, one can almost get the feeling that Eritrea has been forced into a corner and that Afewerki has finally drawn a sigh and said to its immediate associates: ‘ Let us try a last means to see if the development of our country can turn. Let us try peace. ”
If the peace agreementit may hold, it will have very large and positive impact on people not only in the immediate region, or Africa as a whole, but also in Sweden. Around 40 000 Eritreans and 20 000 Ethiopians live in Sweden (even more if you count those born in Sweden by Eritrean or Ethiopian parents).
Through increased trade and open communication links, for example, that companies may start to use Eritrea’s ports to transport goods into Ethiopia, other important effects will also come. There is great potential for the two countries for economic, cultural and political cooperation, with a significant impact on the safety of the Horn of Africa and the whole of eastern Africa.
Ethiopia is now likely to continue its comprehensive reform programmes. With an economy going like the train, there is no expectation of direct problems more than possible protests among residents of Badme, who want to continue to belong to Ethiopia. It is more difficult to predict on what is going to happen in Eritrea.
President Afewerki might increasingly sees the success of Ethiopia and the new Prime Minister’s Popularity figures and embarks on a similar softning in Eritrea in terms of democracy and economic liberalization.