Ethiopian Athlete, Sintayehu Legese, on Saturday won the 2019 edition of the Lagos City Marathon.
 
Legese, who finished the race with a time of 2:17:26 won the grand prize of $50,000.
 
The second runner up, Joshua Kipkorir from Kenya had a finish time of 2: 18:16 while the third runner up William Yegon also from Kenya had a finish time of 2: 19: 04.
 
Both second and third placed runners are expected to go home with $40, 000 and $30, 000.
 
In the female category, it was a clean sweep for Ethiopia as the trio of Meseret Dinke, Alemenesh Herpha Guta and Kebena Chala finished first, second and third to win $50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.
 
Gideon Goyet was the first Nigerian to cross the finishing line in 2 hours, 30 minutes to win N3 million, beating last year’s champion, Iliya Pam to second place, with a prize money of N2 million.
 
Speaking while presenting prizes to the winners, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said it was gratifying that the marathon was getting bigger and better yearly, adding that the competition had come to stay.
 
He specifically appreciated all Lagosians for cooperating with government to ensure success of the tournament each year since it began four years ago, saying the initiative was basically in line with the determination of his administration to use sports, tourism and entertainment to promote Lagos and grow the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
“I want to say a big thank you to all Lagosians for tolerating us in the last four years because this is the fourth time we are doing this Lagos Access Marathon and it has been improving year in, year out. This year, we had 58 countries participating and over 100,000 athletes also taking part in this journey.
 
“The marathon is part of our administration’s initiative to use sports, tourism, entertainment, arts and culture to promote the excellence of Lagos and positively engage the youth. The competition has been getting bigger and better yearly and this year’s edition is exceptional being that it attracted highest participation worldwide and increase in the number of athletes and prizes,” Governor Ambode said.
 
While expressing optimism that the marathon would be sustained, Governor Ambode urged Lagosians to vote for all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming general elections from the Presidency to National Assembly and at the State levels.
 
“I believe strongly that what we have started will be continued by the APC gubernatorial candidate, Jide Sanwo-Olu when he comes in and I believe strongly also that this will take the GDP of Lagos to greater heights.
 
“Remember next Saturday is presidential election. You know where my heart is and that is four plus four; that is where we are going to be. On March 2nd also, we do the same thing which is to vote all APC candidates in the State. God bless all Lagosians; I love all of you and I remain yours forever,” the Governor said.
 
Besides, Governor Ambode also used the occasion to donate N2.5 million to an upcoming artiste, Johnson David who was called to perform on stage from the crowd by Nigerian hip-hop star, D Banj.
 
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2nd left), with Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe (2nd right), presenting a cheque of $50,000 to Ethiopian athlete and the winner of the 2019 Lagos City Marathon, Sintayehu Legese (middle) while the 2nd Prize winner and Kenyan Athlete, Joshua Kipkorir (left) and 3rd Prize winner from Kenya, William Yegon (right), look on during the 2019 Lagos City Marathon at the Eko Atlantic City, on Saturday, February 2, 2019.
 
“We just want to say a big thank you to D Banj for the opportunity to bring out this kind of talent impromptu. I was just going to say D Banj should mentor him and in addition to that, my initial contribution is to give him N2.5million.
 
“This is what the Lagos story is all about –if you can dream it, you can make it happen. So, he must have been dreaming it and today he has gotten the access to the Lagos Access Bank Marathon and today, he is a changed person.
 
“So, this is what we have always been saying; the future belongs to all these young people and you can see that all of you are almost in the same age bracket and this is what the future of Lagos is and what we want to preach and continue to preach that every person can have that opportunity to make it in life,” he said.
 
The high point of the event was various performances by a-list artistes including Teni, CDQ, Slim Case, Olamide and D Banj who equally seized the opportunity to commend Governor Ambode for initiating and implementing the platform of the marathon and for his achievements in office in the last three and half years.
 
 
Source: NAN

German carmaker Volkswagen have announced they plan to assemble cars in Ethiopia.

The announcement was made in front of the German president as he visited the country. The carmaker said in a statement that they will build a car plant and a training centre.

Ethiopia has the world's lowest rate of car ownership, with only two cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a 2014 Deloitte report. Many Ethiopians have found owning a car too expensive because of import taxes of up to 200%.

 

BBC

Violence between rival Ethiopian communities near the southern town of Moyale has escalated with eyewitnesses reporting that 13 people were killed on Monday.

Since the beginning of the month there have been sporadic clashes over land.

People from the Borana Oromo ethnic group complain that a referendum conducted in 2005 unfairly awarded what they consider to be their land to a Somali clan known as Garri.

Both are cattle herding communities and many herders carry guns. reports that ending the ethnic clashes in different parts of Ethiopia is the greatest challenge facing the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Reforms currently sweeping through Ethiopia under the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have implications for the relationship between Ethiopia and its neighbours. Ethiopia is seen as the de facto leading state in the region. But it has a history of clashing with neighbouring states.

The current reforms have the potential to bolster Ethiopia’s leadership role in the region. And an Ethiopia that is perceived as a unifying force could lead to more stability.

Two recent announcements stand out: the normalisation of relations with the northern neighbour Eritrea and the signing of a peace deal with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist movement that has sought self-determination for the Somali region of Ethiopia.

The reasons these two developments are so important is that the tension between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have each contributed to instability in the region. The peace deal brokered between Ethiopia and Eritrea will not only affect internal tensions within Ethiopia. It’s also likely to signify a new chapter in the politics of the region.

For its part, the peace accord with the Ogaden National Liberation Front will end a long-standing conflict with the Ethiopian state. This conflict has shaped Ethiopia’s relationship with its Somali region, as well as Ethiopia’s relationship with the Republic of Somalia. The Somali region of Ethiopia is one of nine regional states under the current ethnic federal system in Ethiopia. It is mostly inhabited by Somali-speaking people.

Territorial statehood

Tensions – both within Ethiopia and between Ethiopia and its neighbours – are rooted in history. The formation of Ethiopia’s Empire state in the late nineteenth century was shaped by the absorption of smaller kingdoms in the south, east, and west of Shewa.

Shewa was Ethiopia’s political centre located north of the current capital Addis Ababa. By the late 19th century the incorporation of these territories was almost complete. By this time the capital had been moved to Addis Ababa.

This incorporation of territories is how the idea of the modern “Ethiopian state” emerged. But this imposition of state power on the new territories was contested. It has been the root cause of much of the country’s internal upheavals.

The importance of territory in Ethiopian statehood was further demonstrated by the 1952 incorporation of Eritrea as an Ethiopian province. Most Eritreans resisted the occupation and took up arms. The occupation was followed by nearly 30 years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrean liberation movements.

Ethiopia has also been in conflict with neighbouring Somalia since Somalia gained independence in 1960. Shortly after its independence, the new government in Mogadishu began to prioritise clan loyalties as it formed a new centralised state. This pitted various clans against each other and widened the chasm between clan loyalty and nationality.

The foreign policy objectives of the new Somali Republic were influenced by the level of influence it enjoyed in the Somali-inhabited regions of its neighbours. This included the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Eventually, the push and pull between the republic and its diaspora contributed to the rise of a separatist narrative within the Somali-inhabited regions. This spawned organisations such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The front is a separatist rebel group fighting for the self-determination of Somalis in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Conflict and territory

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Ethiopia was mired in conflicts that challenged its territorial integrity. One was the Ethiopia/Eritrea war.

Self-determination was at the core of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean liberation movements. Throughout the conflict it was viewed as a civil war since Eritrea was regarded as a province of Ethiopia.

Similarly, the tension between Ethiopia and the Somali separatist movements was triggered by the Somali belief that their territory belonged to the Somali Republic.

These conflicts led to regional instability.

Ethiopia taking centre stage

Ethiopia has been on a path of reform since 1991. In the intervening years it has become the most economically dominant country in the region. This has cemented its leadership position. The current political reforms can be seen as part of a process of redefining Ethiopia’s role in the broader East African region – and the continent.

The governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have been in peace talks since the early 1990s. The unsuccessful talks were accompanied by low-intensity conflict that severely affected the region.

That could be about to change. Thanks to Abiy Ahmed’s reform efforts, the front announced a unilateral ceasefire in August 2018, and by September peace talks had begun with the Ethiopian government and a peace deal was signed. There is cause for optimism that the deal will last because of the current leadership in Addis Ababa.

The peace deal with Eritrea has already had a number of positive outcomes that could contribute to regional stability.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki have met several times to announce concrete evidence of the peace deal. Abiy also recently hosted his Eritrean and Somali counterparts to cement regional ties.The Conversation

 

Namhla Matshanda, Lecturer, Political Studies, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday swore in the country’s first female supreme court president, building on efforts by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to achieve gender parity in government.
 
The appointment of Meaza Ashenafi comes two weeks after Ahmed named 10 female ministers to make Ethiopia the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.
 
A prominent rights campaigner, Meaza recently served as an adviser on women’s rights at the Addis Ababa-based UN Economic Commission for Africa.
 
Naming her as his pick to head the Supreme Court, Ahmed told lawmakers the court system needed improved capacities “to successfully implement demands made with regards to justice, democracy and change in our country.
 
“I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind.”
 
Parliament unanimously approved Ahmed’s choice.
 
Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the court system operates independent of government.
 
On Oct. 26, the Horn of Africa country named Sahle-Work Zewde as president, also the first woman to hold that post.
 
Since his appointment in April, Ahmed has presided over a series of reforms that have included the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government and diplomatic overtures to long-term enemy Eritrea.
 
But they have so far failed to curtail unrest with over two million people displaced this year due to clashes – many pitting different ethnic groups against each other – in several parts of the country.

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has re-elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as its chairman. This means that Ahmed will continue as prime minister until the next party congress. It is with this certainty that he has taken the opportunity to reassemble his cabinet for the second time this year.

The latest reshuffle has downsized cabinet departments from 28 to 20. Ten of the new ministerial appointments are women, meaning that Ahmed has achieved a 50% gender balance in his new team.

This is a significant milestone. But perhaps of more importance is the creation of a ministry of peace. Ahmed has made it clear that peace is central to his reforms agenda. The new peace ministry is therefore an effort to ensure that this agenda remains on course. The question is: how effective can it be in the long run?

National security

The new peace ministry will oversee intelligence and security related agencies, federal affairs, immigration and others. It has been created with the hope that it will improve ethnic relations in the country, and work towards reconciliation among communities ravaged by unprecedented levels of ethnic violence over the last two decades.

This is a broad mandate, which one single ministry might not be able to achieve. Ahmed’s intent, nonetheless, is to show his administration’s desire to pursue a peace agenda with the view to building a stable and more tolerant nation state.

But his ‘peace ministry’ approach might prove problematic.

Firstly, it will need to recognise the root causes of ethnic tension in Ethiopia. So far, Ahmed’s administration has continued to prioritise ethnic politics and the furthering of the rights of groups over the rights of individual citizens. This approach has historically pitted ethnic groups against each other, often resulting in inter-ethnic violence.

Secondly, the power structure in Ethiopia has not changed. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front remains the most powerful political force in the country. If Ahmed wants to transform Ethiopia, he must also take strides to create democratic change within the coalition. The front must embrace internal, ideological reforms for peace and security to be achieved in Ethiopia at large.

Revolutionary democracy, or the idea that the enlightened élites should lead the unconscious masses to the revolution, has been the ruling coalition’s main political and economic ideology. In Ethiopia, it has prioritised the party agenda over the sanctity of the country’s constitution, which is also problematic. If the coalition refuses to expand its democratic space, Ethiopia’s history of exclusion and oppression may continue uninterrupted.

Peace priorities

The creation of a ministry to work exclusively on peace and security matters is admirable. However, Ahmed’s administration must also attempt to reform the country’s ethnic federal system of government, which is built around regional administrations.

Disparities between these administrative regions pose serious challenges to Ethiopian unity. Some regions like Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and the south are considered developed. While others, like Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, Somali and far flung regions, are still developing. This economic inequity has precipitated ethnic competition, a race for resources and evictions of people from certain areas.

The ruling coalition must also look beyond the demands of survivalist politics. Ahmed and his peers in leadership therefore need to focus on legacy, rather than short-term gains.

An important legacy would be the peaceful co-existence of ethnic groups, and the re-imagining of Ethiopian nationalism. This can be achieved by encouraging citizens to participate in politics, not by constraining their rights to associate freely. Thus, if Ahmed’s administration maintains a clear focus on the rights of every Ethiopian, it could end up being one of the most consequential political administrations in Ethiopia’s modern political era.

All eyes are now trained on the new peace ministry, headed by Muferiyat Kamil. The former speaker of the house has a hefty job on her hands, given the high expectations that have been placed on her ministry. She is privileged, however, to have a self-professed reformist as an ally at the helm of government.

The creation of the ministry has been lauded but it has also been criticised for concentrating political power in Kamil’s hands. She is one of Ahmed’s most loyal allies in the ruling coalition.

A time for reform

Since Ahmed became prime minister he has taken great strides to transform Ethiopia’s politics.

The historic peace agreement signed with Eritrea has also had a transformational effect on the greater East Africa region. Regional peace discussions are slowly being replaced with talks of economic integration.

Unfortunately, Ahmed’s reform agenda has been threatened by flurries of ethnic conflict in his own backyard. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evicted from their homes because of their ethnicity. Going forward, this could challenge the stability of the Ethiopian state.

Moreover, questions are beginning to arise about Ahmed’s sincerity and commitment to genuine political change. When 25 people were killed in Addis Ababa a few weeks ago, the city’s youth staged demonstrations to call for better security. The government responded with undue force; scores were killed and thousands stayed in unlawful detention for over a month.

After their release some of those who spoke up for them were arrested by the security forces. Among those arrested was Henok Aklilu, a young lawyer and human rights defender. International organisations like Amnesty International demanded and successfully secured his release but others remain in detention. Amnesty released a statement saying that his arrest

… highlights the difficulties human rights defenders continue to face despite the Ethiopian government’s stated commitment to open up space for dissenting voices.

It’s safe to say that Ahmed’s push for political change is now under scrutiny. He must regroup with haste and address the injustices that have been meted out by the state infrastructure for decades.The Conversation

 

Yohannes Gedamu, Lecturer of Political Science, Georgia Gwinnett College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As part of advancing regional economic integration, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement to establish joint special economic zones.
 
“The two countries will develop Joint Investment Projects, including the establishment of Joint Special Economic Zones,” twitted Yemane G. Meskel, Eritrean Minister of Information.
 
The agreement is signed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, according to Mr. Yemane. The signing of the agreement was attended by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
 
The agreement has followed the Joint Declaration on Peace and Friendship the two countries have signed on July 9, 2018 in Asmara. Labeled, ‘Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation between Ethiopia and Eritrea,’ the deal signed in Saudi involves comprehensive cooperation in the political, security, defense, economic, trade, investment, cultural and social fields on the basis of complementarity and synergy.
 
The two countries will implement the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission decision, while combating terrorism, trafficking in people, arms and drugs in accordance with international covenants and conventions, according to the agreement.
 
Appreciating the peace deal between the two East African countries, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has awarded President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy Saudi Arabia’s highest medal.
 
The Red Sea
In a related development President Isaias has also talked with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia about enhancement of bilateral cooperation and vital issues of development and security of the Red Sea maritime route.
 
Djibouti – Eritrea
After several years of border conflict, the leaders of Djibouti and Eritrea have met in Saudi Arabia. In a meeting in Jeddah, President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti agreed to open a new chapter of cooperation & good neighborliness between the two sisterly countries, according to Mr. Yemane.
 
Business Insider
China has agreed to restructure some of Ethiopia’s loans, including a loan for a four billion dollars railway linking its capital Addis Ababa with neighbouring Djibouti, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday.
 
“`During our stay, we had the opportunity to enact limited restructuring of some of our loans.
 
“In particular, the loan for the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway which was meant to be paid over 10 years has now been extended to 30 years.
 
“Its maturity period has also been extended,” Ahmed told newsmen in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, upon return from a summit in China.
 
President Xi Jinping announced 60 billion dollars in aid and loans for Africa on Monday while hosting more than 40 of the continent’s leaders in Beijing, saying that the money came with no expectation of anything in return.
 
Beijing pushed back on criticism that it was shackling poorer countries with heavy debt burdens they will struggle to pay back, portraying the Chinese government as a magnanimous one motivated only to share its experience of rapid industrialization.
 
“China’s investment in Africa does not come with any political conditions attached and will neither interfere in internal politics nor make demands that people feel are difficult to fulfill,” Xi said during a keynote address to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation on Monday.
 
Zi said the money will be focused on infrastructure to help speed African countries’ development, not on “vanity projects.”
 
The package outlined by Xi also includes medical aid, environmental protection, agricultural training and assistance, and government scholarships and vocational training for more than 100,000 young Africans.
 
At the last forum, held in Johannesburg three years ago, Xi also pledged $60 billion in investment.
 
He said Monday that this money had already been granted or earmarked, so the latest announcement represented a second round of 60 billion dollars.
 
The program is part of Xi’s broader Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious $120-billion-plus project that aims to link 65 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa — together accounting for almost two-thirds of the world’s population — through infrastructure projects and trade.
 
At a time when President Trump is engaged in trade fights with the United States’ neighbors and allies, the Chinese leader seems to relish the opportunity to appear as a popular international statesman and champion of the liberal economic order.
 
For two days in a row, every headline on the front page of the state-run People’s Daily started with the words “Xi Jinping,” as the president met with the leaders of Angola, Gabon, Mauritius, Senegal and elsewhere.
 
He also hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
Analysts have raised concerns about African countries, many of which are subject to the whims of commodity markets, not being able to repay Chinese loans.
 
The three countries most vulnerable because of large debts owed to China are Djibouti, Congo and Zambia, say academics at the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.
 
Zambia, which has a gross domestic product of 19.5 billion dollars, according to the World Bank, had taken about 6.4 billion dollars in loans from China, the researchers wrote in a briefing paper last month.
 
But Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who chairs the African Union, said that rather than viewing the investment as a “debt trap,” other countries should be asking why they’re not giving Africa as much assistance as China.
 
“We have benefited a lot from China’s support in our social and economic programs, and that has continued to strengthen the partnership between China and Rwanda,” Kagame told the People’s Daily.

Roses and champagne have been given to passengers on the first commercial flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 20 years.

Ethiopian Airlines said its "bird of peace" flew to Eritrea, after the end of the "state of war".

Passengers sang and danced in the aisles during the 60-minute flight. But they wept once they landed in Eritrea's capital Asmara, as they met relatives and friends for the first time since the 1998-2000 border war.

This led to the closure of air and road travel between the two nations.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spearheaded a peace process with Eritrea since he took office in April. He signed a "peace and friendship" agreement with Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki on 9 July, declaring that the "state of war" was over.

Map showing old versus new flight routes from Ethiopia to Eritrea

The deal was signed in Asmara, during the first visit by an Ethiopian head of state to the country in 20 years. Mr Isaias made a reciprocal visit to Ethiopia about a week later.

The two leaders agreed to restore diplomatic ties, and resume air and road travel.

Who was on the flight?

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was among the passengers on the historic flight. He told the BBC's Emmanuel Igunza that he was emotional about making the trip.

"It's a golden moment for the two countries and the two people," he said.

Family members separated by the war hugged and sobbed when they met in Asmara. Flight attendants had handed out roses and had served champagne to passengers in all classes during the flight.

The passengers included 33-year-old Izana Abraham, who was deported from Eritrea during the war because he was born in Ethiopia. 

"I'm super excited. You have no idea," Mr Izana was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"This is history in the making," he added.

More than 450 passengers were on board, Ethiopia's privately owned Addis Standard news site reported. Demand was so high that a second flight left within 15 minutes, AFP reported.

Why is this a big deal?

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993. Five years later, their armies fought over disputed territory along their border. Some 80,000 people were killed in the conflict.

A UN-backed boundary commission ruled in 2002 that Ethiopia should cede the town of Badme to Eritrea. It refused, and the two countries remained in a state of "no war, no peace".

Mr Abiy has promised to hand over territory, but it is unclear when this will happen.

 

Source: BBC

This week Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed visited neighbouring Eritrea, to be greeted by President Isaias Afwerki. The vast crowds that thronged the normally quiet streets of Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, were simply overjoyed.

They sang and they danced as Abiy’s car drove past. Few believed they would ever see such an extraordinarily rapid end to two decades of vituperation and hostility between their countries.

After talks the president and prime minister signed a declaration, ending 20 years of hostility and restoring diplomatic relations and normal ties between the countries.

The first indication that these historic events might be possible came on June 4. Abiy declared that he would accept the outcome of an international commission’s finding over a disputed border between the two countries. It was the border conflict of 1998-2000, and Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the commission’s ruling, that was behind two decades of armed confrontation. With this out of the way, everything began to fall into place.

The two countries are now formally at peace. Airlines will connect their capitals once more, Ethiopia will use Eritrea’s ports again – its natural outlet to the sea – and diplomatic relations will be resumed.

Perhaps most important of all, the border will be demarcated. This won’t be an easy task. Populations who thought themselves citizens of one country could find themselves in another. This could provoke strong reactions, unless both sides show flexibility and compassion.

For Eritrea there are real benefits - not only the revenues from Ethiopian trade through its ports, but also the potential of very substantial potash developments on the Ethiopia-Eritrea border that could be very lucrative.

For Ethiopia, there would be the end to Eritrean subversion, with rebel movements deprived of a rear base from which to attack the government in Addis Ababa. In return, there is every chance that Ethiopia will now push for an end to the UN arms embargo against the Eritrean government.

This breakthrough didn’t just happen. It has been months in the making.

The deal

Some of the first moves came quietly from religious groups. In September last year the World Council of Churches sent a team to see what common ground there was on both sides. Donald Yamamoto, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and one of America’s most experienced Africa hands, played a major role.

Diplomatic sources suggest he held talks in Washington at which both sides were represented. The Eritrean minister of foreign affairs, Osman Saleh, is said to have been present, accompanied by Yemane Gebreab, President Isaias’s long-standing adviser. They are said to have met the former Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, laying the groundwork for the deal. Yamamoto visited both Eritrea and Ethiopia in April.

Although next to nothing was announced following the visits, they are said to have been important in firming up the dialogue.

But achieving reconciliation after so many years took more than American diplomatic muscle.

Eritrea’s Arab allies also played a key role. Shortly after the Yamamoto visit, President Isaias paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia – aware of the trip – encouraged the Saudi crown prince to get the Eritrean president to pick up the phone and talk to him. President Isaias declined, but – as Abiy Ahmed later explained – he was “hopeful with Saudi and US help the issue will be resolved soon.”

So it was, but one other actor played a part: the UAE. Earlier this month President Isaias visited the Emirates. There are suggestions that large sums of money were offered to help Eritrea develop its economy and infrastructure.

Finally, behind the scenes, the UN and the African Union have been encouraging both sides to resolve their differences. This culminated in the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, flying to Addis Ababa for a meeting on Monday – just hours after the joint declaration. Guterres told reporters that in his view the sanctions against Eritrea could soon be lifted since they would soon likely become “obsolete.”

It has been an impressive combined effort by the international community, who have for once acted in unison to try to resolve a regional issue that has festered for years.

Risks and dividends

For Isaias these developments also bring some element of risk. Peace would mean no longer having the excuse of a national security threat to postpone the implementation of basic freedoms. If the tens of thousands of conscripts, trapped in indefinite national service are allowed to go home, what jobs await them? When will the country have a working constitution, free elections, an independent media and judiciary? Many political prisoners have been jailed for years without trail. Will they now be released?

For Ethiopia, the dividends of peace would be a relaxation of tension along its northern border and an alternative route to the sea. Families on both sides of the border would be reunited and social life and religious ceremonies, many of which go back for centuries, could resume.

But the Tigrayan movement – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) - that was dominant force in Ethiopian politics until the election of Prime Minister Aiby in February, has been side-lined. It was their quarrel with the Eritrean government that led to the 1998–2000 border war.

The Eritrean authorities have rejoiced in their demise. “From this day forward, TPLF as a political entity is dead,” declared a semi-official website, describing the movement as a ‘zombie’ whose “soul has been bound in hell”. Such crowing is hardly appropriate if differences are to be resolved. The front is still a significant force in Ethiopia and could attempt to frustrate the peace deal.

These are just some of the problems that lie ahead. There is no guarantee that the whole edifice won’t collapse, as the complex details of the relationship are worked out. There are many issues that have to be resolved before relations between the two countries can be returned to normal. But with goodwill these can be overcome, ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity from which the entire region would benefit.

 

Martin Plaut, Senior Research Fellow, Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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