Nobel Peace Prize 2019: Is the Conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea Over? Part II
5: Sagittarius war in border country
Towards the mid-1990s, Ethiopia and Eritrea seemed to be moving toward friendship. But then, in May 1998, the relationship took an unexpected direction. War broke out.
It is estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the Ethiopian-Eritrean border areas between 1998 and 2000. But why did the war begin? There is probably no single case that can be said to have set it all in motion. The war between the two countries was linked to a number of disagreements – historical, political and economic.
Nevertheless, it is the events in the small border village of Badme that are seen as the episode that caused the disagreements to escalate into armed conflict. On May 6, 1998, armed Eritrean forces entered the then Ethiopian village of Badme. On the ground, the Ethiopian-Eritrean border was blurred, and both Ethiopia and Eritrea thought they were right in the area. The conflict escalated, and travel by plane and along the road ceased. The telephone lines between the countries were closed and trade stopped.
After two years of bloody trench warfare, a peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea was negotiated through the Organization of African Unity (OAU, a forerunner of the African Union, AU ) in Algiers in 2000. A border commission was appointed, and in 2002 it was decided that among another Badme was to fall under Eritrea. Ethiopia did not accept the decision, the border between the two states remained controversial, and the conflict flared up again a few years later.
In the years that followed, there were regular fatal clashes between forces from the two neighboring countries. For a long time there was an ice front between the states and no diplomatic ties. Therefore, many were surprised when Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, in June 2018 said that Ethiopia would no longer fight for the disputed border areas.
On July 9, 2018, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki met in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara. A “joint declaration of peace and friendship” was signed, and pictures of the two smiling heads of state went around the world.
The peace agreement means, on paper, that Ethiopia and Eritrea are no longer at war. But this does not mean that the border crossings between the countries are now open, or that the underlying causes of the war have been resolved.
6: Make changes in Eritrea
In the period after Eritrea gained its independence, the world community viewed positively what this new state could develop into. Eritrea was considered a state with little corruption, with a lot of talk about equality and rights. The new country quickly got its own constitution. The constitution, however, was never implemented, and the country is today considered a totalitarian dictatorship , often described as “Africa’s North Korea”.
Every year, the organization Reporters Without Borders publishes a ranking of press freedom in the countries of the world. For several years, Eritrea has shared the bottom position with North Korea and Turkmenistan . According to Human Rights Watch, political parties, elections, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and several religions are banned in Eritrea .
In Eritrea, first-time military service is compulsory for all. But no one knows how long it will last . Therefore, there are very many who escape from the country . The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has in many ways helped to define, and legitimize, how Eritrea has been governed: The war has enabled the Eritrean authorities to maintain a tight grip and maintain military service. Many are now unsure how the Eritrean leadership will hold on to power without an equally obvious external enemy.
7: Elections and protests in Ethiopia: against community or division?
While there appears to be little change in Eritrea, Ethiopia has witnessed a whirlwind of political reforms over the past year.
After Abiy came to power in April 2018, a number of changes followed that led to optimism, both inside and outside Ethiopia, a country located in Africa according to internetsailors.com: The state of emergency was lifted, political prisoners were released from prison . The Internet and other media, which had previously been strictly regulated, were opened up. Women stepped into important ministerial positions, as head of the Supreme Court, and the experienced diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde was appointed as the country’s first female president.