22 June 2018

East Africa: A Speech Tailored to the Size of Horn

Last Monday's afternoon was so unique and yet historic for most Ethiopians, both home and abroad. But it may not put anyone on a hasty generalization if he/she concludes as the Day has also brought to light new generation of pan-African statesman in an Ethiopian soil, notable as the embalm of PanAfricanism.

No doubt, this piece is all about Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Amhed's vibrant speech, if not lecture, televised to the people of Ethiopia.

What could strike the mind of viewers/listeners, and may lead them to include the premier in the list of pan-African statesmen is not only the writer's perception of the Dr.Abiy's argument while addressing questions from Members of the House of Peoples' Representatives.

It is also his way of addressing the question regarding the issue of Bademe, to single out, a border town between Ethiopia and Eritrea. History has already recorded the place as, may be, the immediate cause of the senseless war between the two brotherly peoples which took the lives of tens of thousands of productive citizens of both sides.

The demarcation in East Africa is artificial that was imposed by the Whiteman which resulted in the split of people tied by blood, culture, religion and language into two or more, as he said it.

He mentioned the Kunama people that the colonial lines forced them to be in two different sovereign states, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Also, the Afari people to live in three countries-- Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea while some section of the Oromo people to be Kenyan by citizenship.

To the contrary, Bismarck's' partition of Africa project forced people of different language, culture and religion to be assembled under the same flag, sadly in an exploitative way.

As most independent leaders of Africa already argued, the borders of Africa are nothing other than colonial inheritance, therefore.

The question presented to the premier was that EPRDF's unconditional acceptance of the Algiers Agreement on the Ethio-Eritrean would go against the interest of people living in the area. There is no dispute with the assertion if it goes in a way one would gain while the other loose, I believe.

The premier's response to the question, however, did not focus simply on delimitation and demarcation. He takes it to something bigger cause, and explained it being outside the box--Horn economic integration. Most expected him to say this and that approaching it in a narrower context. But his response was even tailored to the size of Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia is playing a lead-goose role to attain the sub-regional integration arrangement of the African Union. The 3.4 billion USD railways, connecting Ethiopia and Djibouti, is adequate example in this regard. But if more examples have to be cited, the roads to Djibouti, Kenya, and Sudan are mentionable, not to mention the energy interconnection with the said countries.

'So, what has this to do with the Agreement?' seems to be a question at this juncture. Any sane mind could get the fathom of the investment in the infrastructure. The projects serve no purpose other than supporting the Somali and Afari people living in Ethiopia and Djibouti to craft their future together or just it calms the water for them to swim together. To the south, Kenyan brothers and sisters can trade among others, and the like.

Ethiopians and Eritreans not only living in the border town but also people of both countries living in remote south Ethiopia and far north Eritrea can have opportunity to know one another.

Besides, the African Union vision 2063 is: "An integ rated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and repres enting a dynamic force in international arena."

Its people are the architects of this vision. The attainment of the vision as well rests on the shoulders of Regional Economic Communities in which Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is one.

Therefore, putting the Ethio-Eritrean cause in a narrower context- demarcation and delimitation is unable to see the bigger picture.

People of Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are tied by blood, cannot be reduced to border issue, and the past bad event was just something that the present and future generation should take lesson from it. As the premier said it precisely it is unwise to pass down enmity to present and future generations.

The two peoples need one another but not for the sake of economic interest only--sea outlet and market for instance. This is secondary. But, the main objective is long-term peace and breaking the stalemate that has been wasting the human capital of both countries. It also shows both countries' determination to abort the time bomb the colonial power buried.

Above all, it promises the reunification of families break apart due to the reign of "no peace, no war" over the last decade.

Indeed, the two countries have prospects of economic integration. The hundred and plus million people could offer market opportunity to Eritrea's manufacturing firms. Similarly, Port Assab could offer Ethiopia with additional sea outlet.

That's why the premier could be seen as new generation of pan-African statesmen. Pan-Africanism is still relevant in the sense that it could abolish the colonial boarders and serve the interest of the billion people of the region. And this was the line of argument of the premier.

Peace and harmony between the two countries is not the issue of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It goes far beyond this for it has impact on the wider Horn. Thus, such far-sighted decision which the Executive of EPRDF passed has greater significance.

The Eritrean government has reciprocated the peace call and has vowed to send a delegation soon to give a final blow to the issue--most hopefully a pan-African solution.

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