Date: Wednesday, 10 October 2018
Rome, 9 October (askanews) - Ethiopia and Eritrea have not signed their peace agreement in Addis Ababa or Asmara, but in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the presence of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to indicate the role played by the Gulf countries in the historic rapprochement between the two countries, after 20 years of hostility, recognized by the two African leaders.
Marked by instability and poverty, the Horn of Africa region is strategic for international trade in the Red Sea, one of the busiest trade routes in the world linking Asia to Europe through the Gulf of Aden to the South and Suez Canal to the North, which has assumed greater importance in the last three years due to the growing presence of the neighboring Gulf countries, interested in securing an alternative route to the transport of crude oil in the face of Iranian threats on the Strait of Hormuz. An importance that also translates into a strong military presence, with the small State of Djibouti hosting the bases of the United States and China, as well as France, Italy and Japan, and soon also of Saudi Arabia, while the Emirates are present since 2016 in the port of Assab, in Eritrea,
For some time the Emirates were acting to promote a rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia and bring back stability in the region, but the initiatives have multiplied with the arrival in Addis Ababa of Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed, last April. One month after his inauguration, the premier met in Abu Dhabi the Crown Prince, who then flew to the Ethiopian capital in June and signed three billion dollars agreements, with a billion deposited directly in the Ethiopian Central Bank to help the Country to cope with the shortage of thinking currency. Shortly thereafter, Abyi announced the intention to accept the UN decision on the Eritrean borders, dating back to 2002, and the Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki accepted the challenge: at the first declaration of peace signed in July in Asmara,
But there are still many challenges that await the two countries now, where the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will be visiting Thursday and Friday. Abyi's decision to accept the UN ruling on the borders with Eritrea is in line with the strong reformist drive imposed on the government since its arrival in power in a country exhausted by more than two years of street protests repressed with violence and in serious economic difficulties. In addition to normalizing relations with Eritrea, Abyi has in fact released dozens of opposition leaders and journalists, allowed the return home of opponents, granted the grace to people and organizations accused of terrorism, announced political reforms to support full democratic development of the country and reforms to liberalize the economy and open up to foreign investors. All initiatives aimed at reforming a government system accused of favoring the Tigray minority (6% of the population) to the detriment of the two main ethnic groups, Oromo and Amhara (over 60% of the population), against whom they had been active since 2015 square protests. Since his inauguration, Abyi, the country's first premier Oromo, has launched appeals to the peace and unity of the country, but ethnic violence continues to register and the premier himself was the target of an attack on a demonstration in Addis Ababa. last June, which caused two deaths. Faced with these internal challenges, the rediscovered peace with Eritrea and the possibility of having access to the Red Sea ports can, however, allow Ethiopia,
For its part, the Eritrean president, in power since 1991, after leading the thirty-year liberation struggle from Ethiopia, has opened the borders to the free movement of people and goods, thus ending years of isolation and fueling the hopes of a resumption of the reform process begun in the aftermath of independence in 1993, and interrupted by the outbreak of the new war with Ethiopia in 1998. Eritrea does not have a constitution or a parliament, and in these years of "war nor peace "with neighboring Ethiopia, for the threat of an attack imposed a national mobilization service to time indefinite that has pushed many young people to leave the country illegally. The national service provides that after three months of military training to which all 18-year-olds are required, those who do not follow the military career are employed in schools, in public administration, in the agricultural sector and in other sectors in support of the country's development, but with inadequate wages to the cost of living. Thousands of Eritreans are now found in neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan and thousands more in recent years have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.