Ethiopia: Eritrea's Response Sparks New Hope in War Stricken Areas

Map showing the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Scholars have lauded the Eritreans government's positive response to Ethiopia's request to end the 18 year old "no peace no war policy" as best move which is pivotal to ensure the economic equitability of the two countries especially those who live in border areas.

How much the no peace no war policy affected the two countries? What advantages could be gained from the peace agreement?

East African Political and Security Analyst Kahsay Gebreyesus tells The Ethiopian Herald that the willingness of the Eritrean government to send envoy to facilitate for discussing about the issue should be taken as positive move for peace, stability and prosperity of the two countries.

He adds that the 'no peace no war policy' has devastated the livelihoods of Ethiopians and Eritreans.

"The two sides have been living in an endless confrontation for 16 years. As a result ordinary citizens of the two countries have paid unnecessary price. They have been obliged to leave their homeland due to unemployment and lack of stability, he insists, adding: "the Ethiopian government has been calling for peace in various occasions. However, the Eritrean government has been giving deaf ear to the genuine request. Though it is late, now it has accepted it and it will create new hope of peace and prosperity."

According to him, the economic problem of the people who live in border areas would be resolved upon reaching agreement between the two governments.

"I have visited Zalambesa, aborder town with Eritrea, several times. It is still ruin and impoverished. Moreover, the people have fear that the conflict may escalate once again or they may be kidnapped by militarist groups. Thus, all these concerns could be solved as well," he insists.

After Eritrea entitled its independence from Ethiopia through referendum in 1993, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and Tigrean People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had consolidated relationship. But their close relationship was ended when the Eritrean government invaded the northern part of Ethiopia in 1998.

Kahsay insisted the war has changed the political spectrum of the region that both nations have been engaging in endless deadlock that have brought massive economic lose.

"The loss was incalculable. It affected every part of the economy" he affirmed.

Peace and Federalism Lecturer at Addis Ababa University Samson Tewelde argues that the relationship was deteriorated in 1997 when Eritreans unveiled their own currency known as Nakfa and the main cause of war was not border dispute at all.

"The border issue was being used for both of them as cover-up. It was totally unnecessary war which claimed human lives and material destruction. The main reason for the war was disagreement in trade and politics," he argues, continuing: "after 16 years of 'no peace no war' situation, they have shown their commitment to end the stalemate. I believe this would be huge success for the people of both countries."

Samson highlights that the people to people discussion could solve border disputes and could enhance economic integration significantly.

"The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea have common identity, history and language. They are highly intermingled. So, the peace process would strengthen the common interest of the two brotherly people," he notes.

The war between the two countries has caused approximately 100,000 dead and wounded and massively devastated the then ailed economy.

The no peace no war situation has caused huge economic destruction especially for the people of Tigray state and Eritrea that many youth migrate to various countries in search peace and employment as a result.

A research conducted by Adigrat University in 2016 indicates that more than 200,000 people from only two Woredas have migrated illegally to Saudi Arabia within three months.

Economics Lecturer at Addis Ababa University, Samuel Tefera expresses his optimistic view that the normalization process would create new aspirations for those who live in border areas.

"Tigray state is very near to the port of Massawa. Thus, with the opening of the border, Tigray and Eritrean border towns and villages will have opportunity to empower themselves economically. Trade and investment would be significantly boosted. We could claim that it would be golden opportunity for the people who have been migrating for better life."

He adds that as the fee for port of Djibouti is high, Ethiopia would get option of cheap port in Eritrea and this will accelerate the economic growth through maximizing the export sector of the nation.

Beside economic advantages being raised by Samuel, Samson Tewolde emphasizes that if the discussion between the two governments bear fruit, the people in border areas would be relived of kidnapping, shelling and escalated conflict.

"The trauma of war is vividly noticed on the mind of the people. They have been concerning that something bad could happen on them. If peace and stability restored, they would not fear anything. They will concentrate on ways of changing their livelihoods."

As far as political gains, he points out that the peace agreement will be important for both sides since there will not be opposition groups in Eritrea who are being labeled as terrorists by the Ethiopian government.

"Gibot 7, the militant group which stationed in Eritrea to topple the Ethiopian ruling party has already announced to give up guerilla warfare. Other groups will take similar moves. Consequently, it would be vital for peace and stability of Ethiopia," Samson notes.

After Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power, Ethiopia's peace and stability is being restored. Many constructive measures have been taken so far which are very crucial for enhancing the economy and politics. The border issue with Eritrea would be among the major success stories of Primer Abiy's administration. Hence the peace agreement with Eritrea will help Ethiopia to sustain its peace and stability and rejuvenate its forex stricken economy.

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