Eritrean children in Asmara painted their faces with Eritrean and Ethiopian flag decorations in support of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s call for peace, July 8 2018.
The recent positive actions taken by the PM of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, indicating his readiness to fully accept and implement the terms of an 18-year old peace agreement between the two countries has opened a window of hope for peace. The previous political elites who held positions in Ethiopia didn’t engage meaningfully with Eritrea. Under the Algiers Agreement, Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to establish a commission (the EEBC) to delimit and demarcate the borderline. In April 2002, the EEBC delivered its delimitation decision and continued to undertake demarcation activities, parallel with the delimitation of the border. However, demarcation activities of the commission delayed as a result of resistance from Ethiopia. For the last two decades, TPLF officials, arrogantly and repeatedly informed the Ethiopian people and the international community that the EEBC decision was null and void.
Eritrea declared acceptance of the binding decision of the border commission and didn’t change its position or attitude toward the ruling. President Isaias of Eritrea called the decision “a gift to the present and future generations of Eritreans who will live with secure and recognized borders.” Eritrean borders were again decided by the determination, sacrifice and perseverance of Eritreans. In the war for maintenance of independence and territorial integration of Eritrea, more than twenty thousand martyrs were sacrificed. Due to the unnecessary aggression, our people wept until their tears were dry and they prayed during the night. The existential threat compelled the productive sections of Eritrean society – the youth to carry weapons of destruction for twenty years.
However, the light of peace has now fallen on our region. Ethiopia has found a progressive, energetic, unifying and developmental leader. It has seen a transformation from defiance to acceptance of agreed principles. The new light of peace shatters the cloud of war and fog of insecurity which has hovered over our region for years. Winds of change that carry an element of peace and cooperation have started blowing to give fresh air for the entire region. Things are advancing at high speed. Democratic forces that make for peace are moving in a bright, progressive and positive direction. The recent developments offers many positive and encouraging signs. Furthermore, the enthusiasm for peace of the two brotherly people can also serve as an additional force for peace.
The hunger for peace among Eritrean and Ethiopian people cannot be easily expressed. When the Eritrean delegation arrived in Addis Ababa, the hospitality of the government and people of Ethiopia was beyond the formal diplomatic reception. Likewise when the Ethiopian delegation, headed by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed arrived Asmara today (July 8th, 2018), the Eritrean people offered a gracious welcome. There were also demonstrations supporting peace throughout the country. In my workplace, in Adi Keih, a town near the border, thousands of men, women, and youth from the College of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as members of local churches and mosques gathered early in the morning at the independence stadium to express their support and respect for the peaceful signals and arrival of Dr. Abiy Ahmed. As a show of peaceful coexistence, people were dancing to Amharic music – the official language of Ethiopia. As well, participants held the flag of the two countries, chanted songs of peace, and they reiterated President Issaias Afewerki’s phrase (directed at the TPLF): “the game is over”. It has been remembered that President Issaias Afewerki, in his historic speech on the occasion of Martyrs Day, said; “The complementarity of peoples and countries, their common bilateral interest, and prosperity, are sacrosanct objectives which we have toiled and paid sacrifices for two generations.” The hearts of those two people have now met and kiss each other with steadfast love and faithfulness.
Peace, development and cooperation are the prerequisites for our times. The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia are raising their voice in favor of peace, development, and cooperation. They understand that peace is the precondition for development and prosperity of their country. For the last twenty years, Eritrea reiterated that without a peaceful and stable regional environment, development is out of the question for any country. A disordered condition benefits no one. The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, having experienced the scourge of two years of active war and 18 years of ‘No peace No war’ conditions, cannot tolerate any more war. The mass demonstrations that have been conducted in Ethiopia and Eritrea in support of the implementation of the Algiers Agreement and to welcome the delegations of their neighbors are a vivid example. The winds of change are blowing on both countries and whether they like it or not, this growth of national consciousness cannot be deterred by the enemies of the two people. This is the greatest blow to peace-hating peoples that have attempted to foil the fervent aspirations of the people.
Eritrea is a staunch force working for regional peace, development and cooperation. And at the same time Eritrea unwaveringly safeguards its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is opposed to any interference in its internal affairs. Safeguarding Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and strict implementation of the EEBC decision is the will and firm belief of the Eritrean people. Now, it has been clear that any attempt to isolate Eritrea in the region and the world, is only myopic thinking and all the evil efforts are now expiring in the face of Ethiopian people’s rising consciousness coupled with the determination and perseverance of the Eritrean people. The vestiges of the defeated clique have tried repeatedly to frustrate the ventures for peace through various means including broadcasting orchestrated hostile and inflammatory public opinions.
The nature of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia is the core of the regional security complex. If peace and cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia happens, it would offer multifaceted opportunities and incentives to all of the Horn of Africa countries. It will promote economic growth and economic interdependence, alleviate security threats, and improve cooperation in transport, energy, and other areas which are vital for development. Solutions to the existing regional challenges that also spillover to affect the regional arena lie in resolving the various disputes amicably. The peace talks that began in Addis Ababa and later followed in Asmara play a great role in confidence building. Peace and cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia can only be strengthened by replacing the old policy of domination, competition, and division with a new policy of friendship, partnership, harmony, and unity.
Borders play a key role in peace, security and cooperation. Where borders are clearly defined, agreed upon and accepted, they enable peaceful and profitable relations with neighbors. Border delimitation and demarcation are necessary preconditions – not to separate countries but to promote peaceful cross-border cooperation. In our case, the mediation and arbitration is over; what is left is the implementation on the ground. In order to avoid a potential source of conflict, the border has to be demarcated in a strict way that the EEBC decided. As far as Eritrea is concerned, there is no time in history that the country has went against any agreement. Eritrea has a tradition of obedience to international law and arbitration. Among many things, Eritrea’s compliance to settle the dispute on questions of territorial sovereignty and delimitation of marine boundary with neighboring Yemen is a case in example.
The war of aggression has erased golden opportunities for the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but as darkness can’t drive darkness we have no intention of showing our scars and wounds to any one. As the Tigrigna proverb says ‘fqrientedelikagedadifka, Xli entedelikagefagifka’ it is good and wise to forgive. Scratching the grudges has nothing to do with healing except to aggravate the infection. We have picked up the gun to defend our sovereignty and tranquility. Now peace is the only battle worth waging. Peace is not something you wish for, it is something you make. Peace and trust take years to build. Peace demands greater heroism than war. It takes much labor and much sacrifice. The past sacrifices paid by Eritreans to defend their country and the sacrifices of Ethiopians to restore peace and justice have made a difference. All are heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives for peace. The game for war is over. A new game for peace and cooperation in a new field has already started. Let us bring reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia by waging a battle of peace and justice.