“Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel and Head of Office, stressed on the need to institutionalize the process of the normalization. “The move to normalize relations with Eritrea is commendable by itself, but it needs to be institutionalized to become sustainable. One way that could be achieved is by ironing out the agreement details,” she said.”
Ethiopia should pursue a more multilateral approach to further amplify its voice in its relation and engagement with Eritrea and other neighbouring nations, an analyst says.
Speaking at the ‘Addis Wog’ forum held on 22 March in Sheraton Addis, Abdul Mohammed, the chair of InterAfrica Group, an Ethiopian civil society organisation, said that Ethiopia’s long-standing multilateral approach to deal with regional issues and neighbouring countries should be preserved in the evolving relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea and with its other nearest neighbours.
Commenting on Ethiopia’s foreign policy and position in Africa in the forum, organized by the Office of the Prime Minister, Abdul said the following course of action for the country should be to build on the positive momentum of normalization of relations that started with former rival Eritrea through a multilateral approach. “There would always be bilateral relation but multilateral approach is critical. Ethiopia has a greater responsibility than other countries. Its responsibility is not only for one country but for the stability of the whole region. Ethiopia should treat Eritrea the way it does other neighbouring countries,” he said.
The chair of InterAfrica Group talked of the significance of the normalization and reopening of the country’s border with Eritrea, saying it was a tremendous diplomatic triumph. “Bold diplomacy is usually needed to break through and settle long-standing conflicts. In this regard, the high-risk Dr. Abiy Ahmed has taken to normalize relations with Eritrea has wider significance and impact and it will be cited as an example of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the continent for years to come. There would be a dearth of researches that would be conducted in the African Union,” he told the audience.
Abdul said in diplomacy, unilateralism could be crucial when negotiations do not advance or tend to get protracted. He said there has precedent in other countries, alluding to the example the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev’s move in taking unilateral decision to defuse a dangerous international situation and to democratize his country’s political system. “By taking unilateral action, leaders could create a new situation that rivals could not ignore, and achieve some objectives,” he said.
One of the vital elements of the rapprochement is the people-to-people ties, Abdul Mohammed stressed, noting that the hard border between the two nations is demolished, and what remains is the soft border. “The Ethio-Eritrea demarcations has been considered as one of the hard borders in Africa, disrupting trade and investment. We have to make concerted efforts so that the normalization does not slide back.”
Ethiopia should not treat its relation with Eritrea any differently than it does with other Horn of Africa nations, the analyst stressed. “Treating Eritrea separately from other nation would present its own problem. As Ethiopia is the pivotal power of the horn of Africa and all the other countries want a better relationship with it, abiding by its policy of cautious neutralism would be of paramount importance.”
“The contribution of Ethiopia in the last two decades in the peacekeeping operations has been tremendous and the country has been the top troop contributing country to the UN. Ethiopia has long kept multilateralism tradition in the realm of diplomacy. Starting from the Emperor’s time, which continued through the Derg and the EPRDF’s leadership, sticking to multilateralism policy has been the consistent policy. That is why Ethiopia had been a founding member of the African Union and IGAD.”
Another speaker Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel and Head of Office, stressed on the need to institutionalize the process of the normalization.
“The move to normalize relations with Eritrea is commendable by itself, but it needs to be institutionalized to become sustainable. One way that could be achieved is by ironing out the agreement details,” she said. Hiroute said the tasks that are being overseen by the joint commissions have to be institutionalized and the two communities on the border area have to be an indispensable part of the peace process.
The two-day ‘Addis Wog’ forum held on 22 March and 23 March in Sheraton Addis covered many domestic issues: employment, wages, economic growth, job creation, social inclusivity, democratization, but also focused on Ethiopia’s foreign policy and position in Africa. It was attended by various prominent personalities and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.