On July 9, 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a historical agreement as a sign of their commitment to put aside their mutual animosity and work for peace, development, and cooperation in the Horn of Africa.

The agreement comes largely as a manifestation of political changes in Ethiopia. It was made possible by the landmark election of the new head of state, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, in Ethiopia. His election can be seen as an attempt to remedy the anti-government protests that have destabilized particularly parts of the Oromia and Amhara Region since 2015. Abiy, hailing from the majority Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia, which largely sees itself as politically and economically marginalized, was initially seen as a figure who might deliver cautious change in the country.

However, some of his early actions have been rather groundbreaking.

For his 16-member cabinet, appointed in April, Abiy selected only one minister from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which had dominated the liberation struggle and had subsequently held power since 1991. He then went on to permit the release of a great number of political detainees and presides over an ambitious plan to privatize much of the state-controlled economy.

Still, what appears to be his most impressive move until today is the bold rapprochement with Eritrea. Following the bloody Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000), the countries had maintained Cold War-like relations in which each often accused the other ofseeking influence in the Horn and meddling with their internal political stability. The two had become to be seen as arch rivals in the sub-region, both seeking a foothold in Somalia.

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Author: Aleksi Ylönen
The opinions expressed in this text are solely the authors’ point of view and do not bind the Center for International Studies, its Director or any other researcher.

President Isaias Afewerki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sign the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship between Eritrea and Ethiopia on 9 July 2018 / photo by Yemane Gebremeskel / public domain
 

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