Let’s take a trip to the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia and Eritrea are 2 countries in this region. They are also some of the poorest countries in Africa.
They have been fighting a bitter war for the last 20 years.
But there is good news! The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea met at a landmark peace summit in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital. They signed a document declaring the war is finally over.
Why were they fighting?
World War II ended in 1945 and Eritrea was made a province of Ethiopia. After a long civil war and a referendum, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
But in 1998, a border war broke out between the 2 countries. It started over control of an insignificant border town, Badme. The barren plains of Badme had no oil or diamonds.
After 2 years of bitter fighting in the year 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace deal. A UN-backed commission was given the task of defining the border. It eventually awarded Badme to Eritrea. This did not sit well with Ethiopia and the two sides have been in a state of “no war, no peace,” since then.
How has war affected the people in this region?
As with any war, life in this region has been adversely affected.
Thousands of people lost their lives and millions have been displaced by this conflict. Over the last 20 years, the countries banned cross-border travel, shut down embassies, cut direct flights, and blocked all phone calls between the 2 countries.
The war has hit the economy of both countries. It deprived landlocked Ethiopia access to Eritrean ports and in turn, cut off Eritrea’s access to the largest consumer market in the region.
In addition, both countries spent millions of dollars on war. They had to increase their military strength and spend more money on defense.
The small country of Eritrea, needed a large army to stand up to the Ethiopian army. They made military service compulsory as the war could erupt again. This ruling caused many young men to flee choosing a perilous journey along the Sahara and crossing the Mediterranean to get to Europe.
Why did the leaders have a sudden change in heart?
The new Ethiopian Prime Minister, 41-year-old Abiy Ahmed met with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerk on his first state visit to repair relations between the two countries.
He declared the war was over and agreed to the terms of the conflict.
He has agreed to open embassies, allow flights and restore telephone lines. Eritrea in exchange will allow landlocked Ethiopia to use its port facilities.
We hope this meeting will bring a new era of peace and friendship in this region.
Written By: Biyash Choksey