9 June 2018

Eritrea: Behind Eritrea's Silence Over Ethiopia's Call for Peace

Photo: Skilla1st/Wikimedia Commons
Map showing the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As Eritrean government prolongs silence over Ethiopia's call for peace, speculations are coming that Eritrean government would not respond to Ethiopia's readiness to accept Algiers agreement and proceed with the process of ensuring peace between the two countries.

Eritrean government has not yet responded to Ethiopia's expression of readiness to unconditionally implement the Algiers agreement, which Eritrea repeatedly posed as a requisite to resume dialogue.

A bloody border war between the two countries ended 18 years ago with Algiers agreement and subsequent ruling of international court and border demarcation. The Ethiopian and Eritrean Border Commission's attempt to demarcate borders on the ground was stalled as Ethiopia insisted on having dialogue before the actual demarcation while Eritrea insisted for the demarcation to be finalized before any dialogue.

Scores of attempts during the last 18 years to mediate between the two countries failed due to Eritrea's insistence to the implementation of the border commission's demarcation prior to any engagement.

Eritrea's last reaction to Ethiopia's call for peace was when PM Abiy Ahmed made a call up on his inaugural as a new PM of the nation early April this year during which it announced that there would be no dialogue before the unconditional implementation of the Algiers agreement.

As part of Ethiopia's desire to ensure peace, the ruling party has announced Tuesday that it will unconditionally implement the Algiers agreement exactly fitting in to the repeated request of the Eritrean government. So far the appeal has not received any response from the Eritrean side.

Some people are speculating that there is a likelihood that Eritrea would not either respond positively or come up with other lame excuses to fail the peace deal.

Marcos Hailemariam (not his real name), an Eritrean refugee living in Addis Ababa told The Ethiopian Herald that , there is a big likelihood that the Eritrean regime would choose to keep silent for long for many reasons.

"First of all the no war no peace situation is one of the pretexts the regime used to extend its life span as a dictatorial regime. If the tension between the nations is solved the people would raise various questions against the dictatorial regime." He explained.

Marcos further indicated that the regime would also attempt to take the occasion as an opportune moment to increase its bargaining power and impose other preconditions which are inclined only to its own benefit.

As per the demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border commission, which was established in line with the Algiers agreement, Ethiopia has lost most of the disputed lands that it claimed including the main contested land, Badme.

Though it has to cede the land to Eritrea as per the final and binding decision of the International Court, Ethiopia has kept the contested land for the last 16 years since the court's ruling. And has also refused actual demarcation on the ground reasoning out that there should be dialogue how to demarcate which Eritrea refused.

Concerning the possible consequences if the Eritrean government accepts Ethiopia's call sooner or later and engages in dialogue, both countries would benefit a lot from the resultant peace and harmony as the no war no peace situation has left them in a lot of crisis, says Yemane Zeray , Assistant Professor of Political Science at Mekelle University.

The tension along the border areas has frustrated any development activity along the border area for fear of confrontation.

But the no war no peace situation was a blessing in disguise for the Eritrean government which wants to rule the country without constitution. The regime has managed to use the stalemate as a pretext to recruit youth in to indefinite national service and exploit their labor. It has also managed to use it as a pretext to externalize all problems that emanate from its rule.

"Accepting Ethiopia's initiative for peace is like losing a big excuse to perpetuate the tyrannical rule" says Marcos.

"The Eritrean Government is ruling the country without a constitution. The constitution formulated 20 years ago is not yet implemented as the regime used the war with Ethiopia as an Excuse." Says Yemane.

"When the war ended, it started to use the stalemate as a pretext for not implementing the constitution." He added.

Therefore the likelihood of the Eritrean government to proceed with

the efforts of ensuring peace between the two countries is very low, according to Yemane. "Analysis of the regimes behavior shows that it will rather choose to prolong the stalemate so as to stay on power."

He further added if the Eritrean government delays cooperation or totally rejects the peace deal; Ethiopia will have a better moral prevalence at international level.

Though Ethiopia dared to break the two decades long stalemate for the sake of peace and people to people relations, it is unfortunately facing another challenge of convincing the Eritrean side to live up to its word. Hence, according to Yemane the Ethiopian government should be always ready to reduce external vulnerability if the stalemate continues and, if by any chance the Eritrean government comes to a dialogue, to maintain the countries international interests.

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