Recently, two countries proved that even the most bitter enemies can unite and spread peace together.
Since 1998, the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia had been engaged in countless disputes that killed tens of thousands of people. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the two countries came together in a display of peace that astounded many.
Recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. This was the first time that an Ethiopian leader had visited Eritrea since their cold war. Prime Minister Ahmed and Dictator Issaias Afwerki of Eritrea warmly embraced at a meeting where the two promised to bridge relations between the countries once again. The citizens of both countries are eagerly looking forward to the peace that will hopefully ensue after the meeting.
A War of Borders
Beginning on May 6, 1998, the infamous war over the Ethiopian-Eritrean borders started as a seemingly minor conflict over an insignificant town.
The market town, which did not have any resources, was only desired by Ethiopia and Eritrea because they each wanted it on their side of the border. The fruitless strife was described as “two bald men fighting over a comb”. The battle escalated into an all-out war, resulted in numerous deaths, and separated families.
Two years later, the war ended with the signing of a peace agreement which established rough boundaries between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The disputes over the border towns were supposed to be settled, but as both of the countries remained unresponsive to the issue, peace still seemed relatively far-fetched. As such, battles over the borders continued for years to come. Because Eritrea did not have a large enough army to fight the Ethiopians, the government made military service mandatory. This caused many frightened civilians to flee to neighboring countries or even across the sea to Europe.
The biggest reason the two countries want peace is that it would be beneficial to the people. Families who lived on towns along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border were separated by strife, and could not be together. However, the newfound peace between the countries will hopefully reunite them.
The summit between Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed and Eritrean Dictator Afwerki was just the first step towards reaching an accord.
The leaders also discussed and agreed to resume trade, reopen embassies and restore transportation and telephone links, so that communication and relations amongst Ethiopians and Eritreans would finally be restored! This also means that Ethiopia, which had been landlocked since the coastal country of Eritrea gained independence in 1993, could finally regain access to ports on the Red Sea. These ports are important for Ethiopia as it can now use sea routes to trade with other nations.
However, there are still challenges Ethiopia and Eritrea need to face before peace. Ethiopia has to withdraw from the disputed territories it occupied during the war. This will be difficult because the country was unwilling to give up those territories for many years. Furthermore, the war was only used as a reason by Dictator Afwerki to build an authoritarian government and a large army. So the peace could threaten his rule of Eritrea because the men and women who were unwillingly conscripted into the army would not have jobs when they return home.
Although there is still a long road ahead to fully restore the ties between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the two countries are doing as much as they can in their hands to reunite the once war-torn lands. Peace awaits, and hopefully, a more promising future for both nations.
Sources: BBC, Economist, NYTimes