9 August 2018

East Africa: How Peace Deals Change Horn's Political Dynamics

Recently, presidents of Eritrea and Somalia, Isaias Afwerki and Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed agreed to restore diplomatic ties and exchange ambassadors, ending the nearly 15 years of diplomatic hostility between the two countries. As it is the case with the Ethio-Eritrean peace deal, many have the same opinion that this agreement will also have wider implications for the peace and stability of the Horn Africa as a whole.

In a move that surprised many, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias ended the two decades of war and conflict, once seemed irresolvable, between the two neighbors. Following the agreement, various political analysts praised the move and predicted that it would change the political dynamics in the Horn and have a positive impact for regional peace and stability.

The Eritrea-Somalia peace agreement is an extension of the Ethio-Eritrea peace deal, says Temesgen Tessema, Law Lecturer at Wollo University. And it will have a paramount impact in further ensuring peace and stability in the region.

The agreement opens a new chapter for Somalia in resolving the prolonged conflicts and troubles at home. This is because, previously, there is a conviction that the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments support the Federal Government of Somalia and its rival militant groups respectively, Temesgen says adding, and this was the major source of division in the region.

The hostilities and rivalry between countries in the region and the involvement of foreign powers have been severely affecting the security situation of the Horn, he states.

However, now the peace deals pave the way for sustainable peace in the region as they unite previously hostile forces. It would also facilitate economic and political integration.

Hence, the agreement would give chance to countries in the region to ensure peace and security and open the door to live and develop their respective countries respectively, he stresses.

Moreover, the agreement between Eritrea and Somali is a bold move in carving out a better place for the region globally.

As to him, the Somali-Eritrean agreement is a demonstration of the fact that there is a paradigm shift from the side of the Eritrean government in dealing with regional issues as it is making various peace deals with countries it was previously in conflict with.

"The peace deal and the restoration of the peace deal would have greater impact for IGAD to sustain peace in member countries. It will also enable to create stable Somali. Now, it seems, there is no reason for the UN Security Council not to lift the sanctions against Eritrea for supporting rebel groups in Somalia."

The hostile nature of relationships between countries in the Horn makes IGAD a weak organization to make meaningful impact. Now, members like Eritrea would return to IGAD and strengthen it to achieve its mission.

On the other hand, as to Kahsay Gebreyesus, Regional political analyst, both peace deals (particularly the Ethio-Eritrean peace deal) need additional normalization agreements to create mutual understanding regarding future relations on trade, border issues, military and security information, currency and other issues.

As to him, the Ethio-Eritrea peace deal and normalization is a prerequisite for the success of the Somali-Eritrean peace deal. "Mutual border administration policy and other agreements are important for normalization agendas. But so far, there is no such issue raised. There are no agreements between the countries," he stresses.

"With the absence of institutional set up to initiate policy change, the success of the peace deals is not yet guaranteed. There is no way to implement the peace deals (in a sustainable manner) without reaching normalization agreements and having various mutual policies on various issues."

As to him, there is no shift in approach from the side of the Eritrean government. The agreements are just meant for it to end its isolation from the international community.

Kahsay advises that the best way to solve regional issues is through institutional mechanisms.

"It is not enough that the countries reach agreements based on the good will of their leaders. The agreements have to be institutionalized to enhance development and safeguard national interests."

The process has not been finalized yet to have meaningful impact in the region, he opines. There are major issues that need to be discussed in detail by the countries concerned. The normalization process need to be participatory and institutionalized also. The people to people relations are imperative and encouraging, he emphasizes, but it is mandatory that the agreements are implemented using institutional mechanisms.

Since the dawn of the Ethio-Eritrean peace deal, there has lately a glimmer of hope that the regional stability situation. Particularly, if Ethiopia succeeds in its ongoing deep political and economic reform, it would play a key role in regional stability together with its neighbors.

Ethiopia's recent move at the UN Security Council also supports this claim. Ethiopian Ambassador to the UN Tekeda Alemu announced at the UN summit that in the spirit to effectively bringing the countries of the East African region together to work for peace and regional cooperation in all areas much better than hitherto, Ethiopia is trying to contribute towards the restoration of friendly relations between two of its neighbors, Djibouti and Eritrea. If successful, it will further change the security situation of the region.

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