After decades of bitter fighting between Ethiopia and what would become Eritrea in 1993, and in the quarter of a century that has followed up to the present day, the two nations have been engaged in a bitter standoff that has stagnated their growth and spread instability in the greater Horn of Africa. Now, thanks to the diplomatic efforts and entreaties of the UAE and Saudi Arabia working together, the era of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is now over, and both are committed to a path of peace, cooperation and economic development.
It is rare that peace breaks out and supplants what seems to be an endless litany of violence and conflict across the globe and across Africa, but given the remarkable detente between the governments in Addis Ababa and Asmara — underlined by the efforts of the UAE and its neighbour — this is indeed the case for these former combatants. And to underline the process, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki were honoured with the UAE’s highest civil honour when the former rivals met in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Both were conferred with the Order of Zayed at the Presidential Palace by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who commented on Twitter: “We have an utmost trust that this move will enhance the bilateral cooperation and coordination between the two neighbouring countries. And will fulfil their citizens’ aspirations to achieve peace, development and prosperity. He added: “It will [also] ensure stability and security in the Horn of Africa and the region in general.”
The events of Tuesday, taken with the highly successful, warm and very friendly three-day visit by President Xi Jinping of China just days before, clearly demonstrate the diplomatic influence wielded by the leadership and Government of the UAE, and illustrates its potential in promoting peace and prosperity. Indeed, from the very earliest days of the founding of this nation, the principles of bridge-building and forging peace and prosperity were clearly defined by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the successful efforts by today’s leadership shows that diplomacy and the promotion of peace pays dividends that benefits all.
In the case of Eritrea, a nation of some five million, and that of Ethiopia, where some 100 million live, both can look forward now to the opportunities of growth and development, realising a potential that had been harnessed by hatred, constrained by conflict and fatigued by famine. Peace truly is a wonderful thing.