Ethio-Eritrean thaw heading for democratic Horn and stronger IGAD


An article by Yosef Ketema in The Ethiopian Herald

The recent  and landmark  rapprochement  of Ethiopia and Eritrea will play crucial role in  bringing about genuine  and home-grown democracy as well as strengthening the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Scholars say.    

For Addis Ababa University African Political Studies lecturer Tewodros Mebratu,  Ethiopia’s  ongoing political reforms and the rapid  thaw between Ethiopia and Eritrea  after  two decades of no peace-no war situation, have several positive spillover effects in  the  Horn of  Africa and beyond.

He says : “During the past two decades, many countries in East Africa, Middle East and others used to be in diplomatic dilemma as they could  not confidently  decide with whom they could forge warmer ties with either Ethiopia and Eritrea.” 

He, moreover, says because of the two countries’ hostile relations, insurgent groups and terrorists had been taking advantages of the situation  in carrying out various terrorist acts in the region. 

“Also regional organizations like IGAD had  been accustomed to lack of consistency in  decision -making  on various  regional and international  matters.

And this in turn has played big role in weakening IGAD’s influence on  building sustainable peace and economic partnership with other regional players, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and The Southern African Development Community (SADC) which  are relatively successful in reinforcing peace and stability as well as cooperation among their members,” he  points out.

He, therefore, notes that the thawing of the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea will benefit both countries economically, socially and politically as their priorities are definitely  going to  be realizing peace, regional cooperation and prosperity.

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Question for this article:

Can peace be achieved between Ethiopia and Eritrea?

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“Hopefully, the ending of the state of war between these two  countries will give impetus   to Eritrea  in a bid to  put into action  its  homegrown  democracy as  the country’s existential  security  risk has been removed for good.” 

Regarding the rejoining  of Eritrea  to IGAD, he says it will strengthen this regional organization’s activities  towards ensuring peace and  stability  in South Sudan and Somalia, which have been  the headache of  the Horn region for a long time.

“So long as IGAD member states work in unison against poverty, corruption and foreign intervention, IGAD will get the chance and capacity to positively intervene in issues like South Sudan and can reinforce stability for the region’s habitants,” Tewodros  notes.

Humanitarian Expert Mulualem Getachew, who works for the  International Organizations Affairs division at the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for his part says : “The  Ethio-Eritrea Stalemate that lasted for nearly two decades had created havoc in  the efforts of  strengthening   IGAD’s role in  bringing economic integration among  member states. Plus these two countries’ rivalry  used to have great impacts against settling the conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia.”

He therefore says that from now on, it will be  easier for IGAD to mobilize its community and to solve burning issues like South Sudan’s case and channel its full effort in bringing sustainable development in the Horn region.  

If the current  promising political reforms in Ethiopia move  at a good pace , the Horn  region  will have bright future of democratization, he says adding : “Now, we can unequivocally say  that the right time has  come to fight terrorism.”

He  also  underscores  that  it was  difficult and  impossible to dismantle terrorism during  the past  two decades as Eritrea remained passive  in fighting terrorism.

Therefore, both Tewodros and Mulalem indicate the current political situations in Ethiopia and Eritrea have brought great opportunities for East African countries and IGAD  in line with  ensuring genuine  democracy, holding  similar stands on various regional and international agendas and speeding  up the ongoing  political as well as economic integration of the region.