Formerly bitter neighbors Eritrea and Ethiopia surprisingly announced the end of Africa's longest conventional, albeit largely frozen, conflict, bringing hope that the over 100 million people in their impoverished and militarily tense Horn of Africa region can finally have a better future. Eritrea was reincorporated into Ethiopia after World War II following decades of Italian colonialism, but it soon thereafter waged a three-decade-long separatist struggle that finally succeeded at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War.
A few years after independence, however, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody border war from 1998-2000 that killed an estimated 80,000 people but resulted in almost no territorial changes, though the internal consequences for each country was that they were forced to reallocate precious resources to national defense that could have otherwise been used for developmental purposes. In addition, each state also imposed a strict security regime inside their borders to thwart the militant proxies that their rival was using against them.
The situation seemed to have settled into a mutually counterproductive stalemate two decades after conventional hostilities ended but then all of a sudden Ethiopia's new visionary and reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced last month that his country would finally adhere to the international court's ruling to withdraw from the disputed town of Badme that was at the focal point of the war with Eritrea. This set into motion the fast-moving events that culminated in him visiting Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara and declaring an official end to the war.
The Horn of Africa region, which has long been one of the most poorest and conflict-prone corners of Africa, now has hope for an entirely new future since the main factor of inter-state instability there has been overcome following this surprise rapprochement, which will see both countries economically cooperate with one another like they used to before the war. Ethiopia — and especially its Prime Minister — is setting a powerful example for the rest of the continent of how to successfully carry out simultaneous domestic and international reforms.
With regional peace assured, domestic improvements continuing apace, and Chinese investment aid flowing in, Ethiopia is evidently a rising Great Power that's attracting global attention for all the right reasons.
To discuss this topic in more detail, Andrew Korybko is joined by Endessa Endessa, legal researcher and policy analyst with law degrees from Addis Ababa University and George Washington University.
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