Ethiopia’s decision to end its border dispute with Eritrea has, so far, been met with silence from Asmara on whether the small Horn of Africa nation is ready to move forward on the long-delayed ruling, and how and when that might be implemented.
President Isaias Afwerki has not made any public comment since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Tuesday that his country is willing to accept the terms of the Algiers Agreement established in 2000, which requires Ethiopian troops to leave the town of Badme and surrounding disputed territory.
The decision followed a two-year conflict in the ethnically and historically linked region, but was never implemented as Ethiopia balked at the findings of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) that supported Eritrea’s claim to the land.
Yemane Meskel, the Eritrean minister of information, also has refrained from issuing a formal statement thus far. In the past, however, Afwerki has said that Ethiopian compliance would be welcomed “spontaneously” once the agreement is honored and the border is demarcated.
“There wouldn’t be any reason or justification for the tension remaining between the two countries,” the president has told Al Jazeera, in one of many messages over the years adhering to the Eritrean government’s position.
Ethiopia’s announcement has been viewed as a surprise by observers, but it is consistent with the reform-oriented focus of the new EPRDF leadership. Some analysts note that Afwerki has long used the border conflict to support the country’s conscription policy, which has been a driver of migration from Eritrea.
“Eritreans’ most predominant impetus for flight is to escape what is known as ‘national service,’” said Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch, during hearing testimony delivered in the United States in April. “To be clear, limited terms of national conscription do not, in themselves, constitute human rights violations. But it is not limited in Eritrea.”
Image: EriTV file