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November 14, 2018

PM Abiy should take political risk and fix Horn of Africa

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki embrace at the declaration signing in Asmara, Eritrea July 9, 2018 in this photo obtained from social media on July 10, 2018. REUTERS
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki embrace at the declaration signing in Asmara, Eritrea July 9, 2018 in this photo obtained from social media on July 10, 2018. REUTERS

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” President Donald J. Trump said during the Helsinki 2018 press conference, where he meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Well, Trump is not one of the best guys to learn from, but as Winston Churchill aptly said, “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.” And that’s why, I think, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed can take some lessons from Trump’s quote.

Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling EPRDF oldest member criticized the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal, saying it “failed to take into account” the “fundamental leadership deficit and its damages visible within the EPRDF coalition, and failed to evaluate the progress in the recent “deep reform” agenda the party, as a collective, was undertaking in order to solve the mounting challenges it was facing.

And as reported by africanews, it also condemned the decision on the bases that it was made public without the consent from the 180 Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front council members, as party doctrine dictates; the participation of EPRDF’s five satellite parties representing Ethiopia’s periphery ie parties that represent the Ethiopian Somali, Harari, Afar, Benishangul and Gambella regional states; and without due consultation with relevant agencies.

However, in the same statement the TPLF released, it acknowledged the decision on Eritrea was “fundamentally in tandem with the principles of peace the Ethiopian government was pursuing for the last 18 years”.

But still, it might not be lost that, as Addis Standard reported in June, residents of Badme, the flashpoint town that triggered the two-year costly war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, protested against the government’s decision to comply with the Algiers Agreement and Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission ruling awarding Badme to Eritrea.

And when this deal went through, Ethiopia formally submitted a request to the United Nations to lift decade-old sanctions imposed on Eritrea. But Djibouti was not happy.

They said that the reasons of the sanctions were not the Ethiopian-Eritrea border problems, and the sanctions, therefore, should only be lifted or continued for the reasons they were imposed.

But Somalia also supported the move by Ethiopia, and it really surprised Djibouti. President Mohamed Farmajo had to fly to Djibouti for an official visit on Thursday to meet President Ismail Omar Guelleh, possibly to mend ties.

This seems to derail the peace process in the Horn. But PM Abiy should not relent. He is the leader who dared touch where his predecessors didn’t.

Take a political risk in pursuit of peace and leave a legacy, not only in the region, but in the world.


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