Addis Abeba (Agenzia Fides) – Sunday 8 July 2018 was a historic date for the peace process between the two countries Ethiopia and Eritrea: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, visited Eritrea’s Prime Minister Isaias Afwerki in Asmara. In a short space of time Ethiopia found itself with a new President who wanted to speed up the process of reconciliation between the two nations. An event of this kind should have attracted the attention of international public opinion and yet, apart from the news itself, it did not go further.
Professor Marco Lombardi, professor of Literature and Philosophy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and among the leading experts in International Security, commented on the event to Fides:
"two countries have been locked in conflict for two decades, pushing the ethnic groups of the area to migrate across a militarized border, albeit with low-intensity clashes, which fragmented families and generated poverty and underdevelopment. Apparently, the rise to power of Abiy Ahmed, the first Ethiopian of ethnic Oromo, has changed the cards. Eritrea responded to international sanctions with a survival economy increasingly determined by Sudanese smuggling, but also a new extremist radicalism that has always been a stranger to Eritrea. And it hurt Ethiopia, forced to face this rift also internally, for the weight it had on neighboring Tigrai, whose ethnic group for decades also governed the Country. In short, many things seem to have changed".
Do you believe it is possible to ensure a stable and lasting peace? And in what way?
"I do not know: a lasting and stable peace requires basic requirements that go beyond the goodwill of a Government, which has the task of initiating and facilitating processes, but cannot end them without a common will among the people to overcome barriers and grudges, which are long-standing. The Italians know little of the Ethiopia of these years, rarely at the center of media communication, and hardly know that the dead was very common among Tigrins, Oromo, Amara, Somali, among the ethnic groups that control the different parts of the Country. Thus, openness with Eritrea cannot be seen as the way to pacification without deeper internal reconciliation.
Let us remember that a few weeks ago a bomb launched at the public meeting of the Prime Minister caused two deaths and many were wounded: this was read as a heavy warning to Abiy Ahmed, who oriented to democratic openness, must contend with the security apparatus of Ethiopia, on whose loyalty there is some doubt, and on the dominant economic interests".
What future do both populations expect?
"Hope dominates countries that are not young but very young, with 70% of people under the age of thirty. Hope orients dreams and visions of the future and will measure the success of promises that, if not maintained, will generate a situation that is difficult to control. But just as much uncertainty is, for now, given by a future that is not necessarily dreamed of by everyone in the same way. Of course peace and well-being is the shared aspiration, but how much this aspiration is ethnically declined, that is to the advantage of one's own ethnic group, this is all to be verified and uncertain. Unshared aspirations can generate new conflicts ".
Love and forgiveness prevailed, in your opinion what will be the next moves?
"Love and forgiveness prevailed according to our logic and according to the will, which I share, of wanting to affirm love and forgiveness as the valid forces to change the world. But this statement must be demonstrated by the next steps, so as not to manifest itself in the disappointment of a policy, on the contrary, opportunistic and personalistic. A confirmation in this positive direction must be encouraged by open policies that do not concern only the Oromo and that involve neighboring Countries without exclusive hegemonic vision".
In your opinion, in which way could the peace agreement between the two governments be beneficial to the whole region of the Horn of Africa?
"The Horn of Africa is a troubled strategic area, key in global geopolitical strategies, where the interests of many Countries confront each other. Certainly the Ethiopian/Eritrean stability can favor a complicated stabilization of the area. The pacification with Eritrea is just a small piece of the puzzle that the new Prime Minister has to face, we do not know how interested he is in finding a port on the ocean: a piece of Eritrean coast may be an implicit question in the peace offered. On the other hand, the openings of Ethiopia to Somaliland, which has the port of Berbera, seem to go in this direction and these, compared to Puntland, are not signs of peaceful relations with neighboring Somalia. In fact, Somaliland and Puntland are both regions of the Somali federal state, which however fight for oil issues and which for a long time border with the Somali Region, a large Ethiopian region that roughly corresponds to Ogaden. As the name says, a region inhabited by Somalis but controlled by Ethiopia, is therefore another shaky piece of the puzzle in the Horn of Africa scheme.
Basically, the path taken by Abiy Ahmed is interesting because it goes potentially in the right direction, it is still to be shown how much he can be peacemaker, because too many variables are not controllable by Ethiopia. It is to be hoped that the new government will persevere. But also, that the Saudi interests, the Emirates, the Turks, the British, the Americans, the Chinese ... just to mention the most 'obvious' ... are not the greatest obstacle to the pacification of the entire area".
(ML/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 20/7/2018)