The establishment of naval/military bases by powerful and emerging countries of the world in the Red Sea indicates the importance of the Red Sea and the necessity of political, economic and military cooperation with the Horn of Africa countries. Ethiopia is a very important country in the Horn region in terms of its number of population and its proactive peacekeeping and peace building activities. This inevitable and prominent role of Ethiopia will bear additional fruits when a new dynamics with Eritrea is created due to the fact that both countries are located in the same security complex, writes Leulseged Girma.
The recent political, social and economic dynamism in Ethiopia is playing a very significant role in intensifying the regional integration process which has been underway for decades. Led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), the Government of Ethiopia has been working insistently to advance principled foreign relations with neighboring countries and beyond to further strengthening internal peace and security. This effort is aimed at ensuring mutual benefit and better economic development. As described by the PM "The Deathless War", the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea which was discontinued for almost two decades has now been upended to bring lasting peace and security for the two countries and beyond. This breathtaking diplomatic effort is the result of geopolitical, economic and social influencers at domestic, regional, continental and international levels.
An age-old political and social amalgamation between the two countries can be viewed as the prime influencer. The grave rivalry between the two countries has directly hurt citizens of both countries. The war resulted in the loss of human lives in tens of thousands and the deconstruction of political and economic integration and social fabric in both countries. The two countries had been blaming each other for the lack of peace and security in the border areas.
Ethiopia's call for peace talks at various times was not welcomed by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki. But now, based on the decision of the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front, the President favorably responded to Prime Minister Abiy's sincere request. Isaias's response was followed by a high-level delegation led by Eritrea's Foreign Minister and it was a miracle for so many observers. Another miracle happened when Prime Minister Abiy visited Asmara where Eritreans hugely expressed their deepest longing for Ethiopians. Vicinity does not satisfactorily express the level of relationship between the two countries. It is beyond that. This dynamics enabled both leaders to leave the grudge behind and start a new chapter that conveys hope for the future.
Ethio-Eritrean border has fallen into pieces because of the stalemate that crushed the livelihood of citizens of both countries in the area. This can be taken as another critical factor that shaped the current dynamics. The no-war-no-peace situation was a cause for economic inactivity in this particular area. There was no any development vision in the area. Rather, there were skyrocketing costs due to military rivalry that includes acquisition of sophisticated military equipments and propaganda. There was no direct war for so many years but the psychological warfare left so many citizens unsettled. Due to closed border, mothers and children, spouses, brothers and sisters and very close relatives and friends could not visit each other in times of joy and grief for almost two decades. This was a grave situation for both sides. Eventually, both sides have come to their senses to avert the military, economic and psychological costs that accrued every time and reconstruct what has been lost in terms of politics, economy and social fabric.
The extensive efforts to realize regional economic integration in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region is yielding interesting results. But it was not all-embracing since the process alienated Eritrea due to collective security reasons. The main objective of the African Union is to bring about unity and cooperation among the member countries. This requires political and socio-economic integration among the member countries. It further requires the regional integration mechanisms to fully realize this grand objective. The IGAD region, which geographically embraces Ethiopia and Eritrea, also believes that sustainable development can be ensured through cooperative peace and security efforts. The regional integration dynamic for the last two decades excluded Eritrea. Eritrea was accused of aiding Al-Shabaab in Somalia to destabilize the region and international community. Following this accusation, Eritrea was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that impacted in the fall of the overall economic situation in the country. The coming of Ethiopia and Eritrea into an agreement to avert the situation will fundamentally change the geopolitical minds at regional and international levels. It might also have a positive effect on the regional integration process. Eritrea is strategically located in the Horn of Africa and a regional integration process that does not embrace it will be in futile. Renewal of an age-old relationship between the two countries will have a profound effect on the regional integration process.
The current geopolitical and economic dynamics in the Middle Eastern region has a direct and indirect impact on the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia and Eritrea have to capture this historic turning point through cooperation. Middle Eastern countries, especially Gulf countries, are undergoing an unprecedented economic and social transformation to change their dependence on oil through diversification. They are heavily investing to ensure their own food security in the Horn of Africa region. Ethiopia and Eritrea are attracting these countries in one way or another.
Though Yemen civil war and Gulf/Qatar crisis are geopolitically of the Gulf region, Horn of African countries are participating through direct participation and alienating a country. This dynamics show that the Gulf is a factor in its current and ongoing political and socio-economic undertaking in affecting the Horn geopolitically. The synergy between Ethiopia and Eritrea will enable them to formulate a joint partnership strategy to ensure a win-win situation for both the Horn and Gulf regions and they can also ensure peace and economic development strategically.
The Red Sea maritime peace and security is one very critical geopolitical agenda for which the two countries should cooperatively work on. The Suez Canal-Bab al-Mandeb-Gulf of Aden maritime route is a challenge for the world trade and security and requires formation of a strong and concerted partnership of regional and international actors. The Red Sea geopolitical security complex cannot only be left to the offshore countries - Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea and Gulf countries. As a landlocked country, Ethiopia has been hugely dependent on ports for its import-export business in the region. Geographically, Ethiopia is only a few kilometers away from the Red Sea. It is found in the Red Sea geopolitical security complex. The establishment of naval/military bases by powerful and emerging countries of the world in the Red Sea indicates the importance of the Red Sea and the necessity of political, economic and military cooperation with the Horn of Africa countries. Ethiopia is a very important country in the Horn region in terms of its number of population and its proactive peacekeeping and peace building activities. This inevitable and prominent role of Ethiopia will bear additional fruits when a new dynamics with Eritrea is created due to the fact that both countries are located in the same security complex. That is why prominent personalities from powerful countries and international organization have been striving to broker peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The role played by Donald Yamamato, Assistant Foreign Secretary of the United States, is evident for the interest shown by major countries in the world.
The effects of terrorism, drought and famine can be effectively curbed when countries of the Horn cooperate and integrate. Effective delivery of basic services for citizens can be achieved when countries cooperate to ensure peace and security. Peace is a precondition for development. Through integration of naturally obtained social and cultural assets, the two countries can register a breakthrough leaving the egos by the political elites behind. Geopolitical peace and security can be ensured through unity of cooperation in a way that promotes citizens democratic and human rights.
The geopolitical differences between the two countries are being reduced in an unprecedented way. The gap is being bridged. Ethiopia and Eritrea have become exemplary for Africa and beyond where conflicts take positive slopes. Leaders of the two countries have decided to restore diplomatic ties. PM Abiy is discharging his responsibilities just after the day of his visit to Asmara. He has discussed with UN General Secretary, António Guterres, to end Asmara's isolation through lifting the sanctions that have been imposed for almost two decades. It is expected that Asmara will also be back to restore its membership in the IGAD region. In both institutions, Ethiopia is exhibiting its political and diplomatic power to restore things to their natural positions. This is an era of togetherness and forgiveness.
Ed.'s Note፡ Leulseged Girma is a researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute (EFRSSI). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter or the institution he is affiliated with. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.