A new era of peace

After 20 years of war, the accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea could bring more stability to the Horn of Africa and East Africa as a whole.

After 20 years of war, the accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea could bring more stability to the Horn of Africa and East Africa as a whole.

If history is made of details, the details that are changing the history of the Horn of Africa go by the names Ahmed Abiy and Isaias Afewerki, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and President of Eritrea. The history in question concerns the milestone peace agreement signed on 9 July between Ethiopia and Eritrea, putting an end to the border war that has lasted 20 years and left more than 70 thousand dead, paralysing a vast and strategic geographical area and the destinies of tens of millions of people. After years of deadlock, the agreement was reached following a change of government in Addis Ababa. The outgoing leadership, viewed as favouring the Tigray minority that had dominated government for decades, was replaced by Abiy, a young and promising statesman, who has already been described as the new Mandela and the country’s first leader from the Oromo majority. Without this decisive change it would not have been possible to embark on the course of action being pursued today.

The Tigray of northern Ethiopia and the majority of Eritreans share an ethnic origin, culture and even language. However, comradeship turned to enmity, largely due to reasons of diffidence and interests. The decline of the TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front) within the ruling coalition of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)and the appointment of Abiyun locked a situation that has been entrenched for years, bringing peace with Asmara in the space of just a few weeks. It is here that the personalities and abilities of Abiy and Afewerki are the details that made the difference.

The personal stories of the two men are radically different. Nevertheless, the two immediately managed to come to an agreement based on a shared intuition: to achieve peace immediately. This political gamble and the speed with which events took place brought successful results. Initiating the period of sweeping changes was Abiy. He began on the domestic front: in just two months he rescinded the state of emergency, released political prisoners, removed the heads of the army and launched reforms to liberalize the economy and redefine the role of women. Once he had a handle on domestic affairs, the young leader then focused on a more important goal – peace in the entire Horn of Africa, beginning with Eritrea.

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