20 May 2017

Ethiopia: Recalling the Eritrean Case

Photo: allafrica.com
Eritrea and Ethiopia relations.
opinion

Talking about the current Ethio-Eritrea relations, though sensitive, seems to attract people from both sides. I say sensitive, because of the unsettled case of the Badime border issue. I cannot tell you with full certainty what exactly triggered the war between the two countries. We have repeatedly heard from the Ethiopian government that the Eritrean government had to use Badime as a cause while the source of disappointment was completely distant from it. Or as authorities say the war was caused by a change in macroeconomic policy on the side of Ethiopia to which the Eritrean government saw it not good for Eritrea. Others saw it merely as a dispute over a land claim.

Whatever the causes were, a bloody war was fought between the two countries that claimed tens of thousands of lives, damaged properties, the environment and halted development. What we know for a fact is that Eritrea occupied Badime and Ethiopia got it back by force.

However, as the conflict could not be quickly settled, the case was tabled at the international arbitrations, and the Algiers decision gave Badime to Eritrea. To the dismay of many, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Ato Siyum Mesfin came out publicly to congratulate us on the pretext that the Commission decided Badime to remain part of Ethiopia while the fact was otherwise. I still wonder why he had to say that. We do not have a clue whether the government was tricked or was trying to cheat its people. Though I could not see any relevance of doing the latter.

Later embarrassed and ashamed, the Ethiopian government decided not to end the case according to the Algiers decision, nor was the Eritrean government also ready to negotiate. Hence we are in a state of No-War-No-Peace.

Despite the fact that there is no official contact between the countries, the people-to-people relationship from both sides is getting better from time to time both within the Diaspora communities and here at home, especially in Ethiopia. This came because both people have many things in common than that which divides them. These two people share common history, culture, religion and much beyond that for they also belonged to the same state, Ethiopia.

Though at this point in time, they could not create peace among themselves and work officially for common prosperity, they still are viewed as having no difference between them by outsiders for one reason. Both countries have people migrating to Europe in mass. Both Eritreans and Ethiopians migrate from their respective countries due to different reasons and are suffering from all the challenges that migration brings. But why do they leave their countries?

In the case of Eritreans, we can mention two main pushing factors for migration. The first one is mandatory and unspecified military service. This is a national call for Eritreans and they are required to do it before anything else. The second, as anyone living in a developing country, Eritreans may have the desire to enjoy a better economic situation. Of course, as migration is natural and a right, some may move out because of other calls.

In the case of why Ethiopians leave their country, we can still mention reasons of a hostile political environment and the economic situation too. Ethiopian politics is polarised and some fear mistreatment and persecution, and ask for political asylum in other countries, particularly in the West.

Eritrea, however, has become vulnerable not only because of the military conscription. I believe its separation from Ethiopia made it handicapped to manage itself. It is simply a consequence of disintegration without having the muscle to stand as a country.

The subsequent conflicts and war were also results of desperation and a struggle for building nationhood confidence. After all the intricacies, I think it is time now for a reconciliation. Let peace reign between the two nations' people. Let Eritrea join Ethiopia in some form of a federation or confederation having its autonomy. Let Assab and Massawa ports dock ship lines carrying loads bound to the Horn of Africa. Let the people of both countries enjoy the fruits of peace and economic growth. Let the powers of Tekeze Dam and the newly built Abay or Hidassie Dam benefit both people. Let the Ethio-Eritrean Railway be built and link the two countries. Let the dream of our forebears to create the United States of Africa begin to be realised step by step.

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