Will there finally be unanimity between the sworn enemies Eritrea and Ethiopia after sixteen years of fighting? To this end, the first step seems to be made. The Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki seems to accept the assistance of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Yesterday, the leader of Eritrea announced that he is sending a delegation to Ethiopia to start talks about a possible solution to the lingering border dispute. The neighbors in the Horn of Africa are in ‘peace and harmony’ according to Afwerki.
It is Afwerki’s first official reaction since Abiy filed a statement two weeks ago about the location of the border. An international committee then ruled that a number of areas claimed by Ethiopia belong to Eritrea at the border. The Ethiopian government refused to recognize that for years.
The ruling followed after the bloody border war that the countries carried out between 1998 and 2000. In doing so, 70,000 people were officially killed, although that number is probably much higher. Tensions remained until now, because Ethiopia did not want to withdraw its troops. That even led to mutual shelling.
The authoritarian and isolated Eritrea refused every form of conversation since the beginning of the war. There would have been 61 mediation efforts, said an official from the Ethiopian foreign ministry against Reuters news agency. But now that Prime Minister Abiy has made concessions, Afwerki is still willing to talk. This is an important step towards possible reconciliation between the neighboring countries. A spokesperson for the Ethiopian Prime Minister said he would welcome the Eritrean delegation ‘warmly and with good will’.
This is especially good news for the Eritreans, especially the young men who suffer from long-term conscription. For many young people, that is the main reason to seek refuge in Europe. President Afwerki always used the Ethiopian threat to justify the heavy military expenses. If the peace talks go well, he can no longer use the conflict as an excuse. The same applies to the postponement of democratic elections.