As we sat there and watched Eritrea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Saleh Osman, Advisor to President Isaias Afwerki Mr. Yemane Gebreab and Ethiopia Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed hold hands and signal the herald of peace for the two countries a fortnight ago; I saw tears roll down my mother’s face. As for my little brothers who are in their summer vacation- spending their time playing soccer and video games all day- they were there with us intently watching every detail of what was happening.
“What did he say now?” would ask my little brother, hoping my mother would translate what Dr. Abiy was saying.
You see, when war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, the youngest of my siblings weren’t even born yet and I was just 8 years old. Just as he was doing now, I was immersed, watching every detail of Eritrea and Ethiopia’s relationship, asking my parents what the other people on the other side of the border-who looked more or less like us- were saying; back then it was war; right now it is peace.
“Complementarity of both peoples and countries, their common bilateral interests, and prosperity, are sacrosanct objectives to which we have toiled and paid sacrifices for two generations. As such, it remains a priority for which we will be actively engaged,” said President Isaias Afwerki on his June 20th Martyrs day speech. It was right then that he announced Eritrea was going to send a high delegation to Ethiopia to discuss how the two countries were going to move forward. Since then, an Eritrean delegation went and came back and then the Prime Minister of Ethiopia came to Eritrea. And now Eritrea’s President is on an official visit to Ethiopia.
Last week, I was there at the rally held to welcome Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his delegation to Asmara; a first visit by an Ethiopian Prime Minister in nearly 22 years. The crowd gave me Goosebumps; women dressed in their traditional attire, children waving ever so proudly not only the Eritrean flag but also the Ethiopian one as well. It was a testament to both people that all they ever wanted was peace and a mutually beneficial coexistence. In every sense of the word, our forefathers are proud and our detractors dejected. Peace has finally arrived.
Peace has always been among humanity’s highest values–for some, supreme. Consider: “Peace at any price.” “The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.” “Peace is more important than all justice.” “I prefer the most unjust peace to the justest war that was ever waged.” “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
Yet, we agree little on what is peace. Perhaps the most popular view is as an absence of dissension, violence, or war, a meaning found in the New Testament and possibly an original meaning of the Greek word for peace, Irene. Pacifists have adopted this interpretation, for to them all violence is bad. This meaning is widely accepted among irenologists and students of international relations. It is the primary dictionary definition.
Peace, however, is also seen as concord, or harmony and tranquility. It is viewed as peace of mind or serenity. It is defined as a state of law or civil government, a state of justice or goodness, a balance or equilibrium of Powers.
The greatest wrong Eritreans and Ethiopians suffered in their history were the disruption of peace, their social values, and the disturbance of their tradition and demolition of trust in each other. All the internal conflicts, border wars, corruption, and mismanagement that have almost ruined the horn and which have caused it to remain behind at present have their roots in the blunders committed by individuals serving their own self interest rather than the people they represented. Decades have passed by and precious young lives lost.
We certainly can’t deny conflict is a sign of life. The only place you don’t find conflict is probably in the grave where everybody lies in eternal quiet and calm undisturbed by the noise and clamor of the surrounding world. Conflicts can be manifested in many shapes and forms. In open warfare between opposing forces; as clashes and strife arising from differences of ideas, principles and doctrines and as mental struggle resulting from unconscious opposition between simultaneous but incompatible desires, needs and impulses. However the outcome of conflicts is determined on how we choose to handle them.
Tribal or clan conflicts are normal manifestations of social growth and cohesion. I think that’s how tribes grew in the past and that’s how they passed into confederations and from there into nations and eventually into nation-states: through the appearances of internal and acceptable antagonisms that were solved either through armed clashes entailing death and destruction, or through the intervention of reason and justice and commonsense, and without the shedding of blood and the destruction of property. The first solution slows down the final outcome of peace and development, while the second speeds it up.
The problem with conflict resolutions in our days seems in the first place to lie in the fact that the world’s reconciliation techniques go for quick fixes only. That’s refusing to see the conflict as acceptable and solvable.
The arbitrators of this world have therefore the tendency to focus their deliberations on the symptoms rather than on the malady itself. Such are the methods used by most ‘messengers of peace’ in our time that wars and strife have become part of our lives as attested by the daily news broadcast by media outlets all over the world.
Noting this, it is a remarkable example that both present governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia have come together to foster peace without any other third party involved. We are one and we always solve our problems by ourselves. This is for us[Eritreans and Ethiopians], and by us.
The Quran tells us,” O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
Eritrean and Ethiopian people share common history, heritage, and bond and regard each other brothers and sisters in arm. The war divided both people out of reach. I and my brother have Ethiopian Godparents; that is a simple example of Eritrean and Ethiopian bond that transcends any border whatsoever. But war never takes such things into account, war takes lives mercilessly.
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men then defences of peace must be constructed”(Constitution of UNESCO, 1945). Recent developments certainly indicate that we have already started to construct defences of peace in our minds. Seeing our President warmly embrace his counterpart Dr. Abiy Ahmed, as the later disembarked from the plane is a crystal clear proof that for the first time in almost 27 years there will be two leaders serving the interest of their people, their countries, their region and their continent. They are the epitome of what Eritreans and Ethiopians mean to each other.
At a state dinner held in honour of Dr. Abiy and his delegation, President Isaias Afwerki highly praised Prime Minister Abiy’s bold political choice and assured him of whatever challenges come in the future, they will face it together. On the other hand, the Prime Minister confidently stated both people will demolish the wall that has keep them apart with love and build a bridge between the two countries.
Prior to Prime Minister Abiy’s departure the next morning, President Isaias Afwerki and Dr. Abiy signed joint declaration of Peace and friendship. The agreement declared among other things, the end of the state of war between the two countries, both countries also agreed to work together to promote close cooperation in political, economic, social, and security areas. Transport, trade and telecommunication will be resumed, while diplomatic ties renewed. Furthermore, the EEBC decision will finally be implemented, as both countries look forward towards working together to guarantee regional peace, development and cooperation.
The last twenty days has seen a seismic shift towards a better future for both countries and their people. We laud our leaders, we laud our people and we laud those who gave up their lives for both countries.
At the moment, President Isaias Afwerki is in Addis Abbeba, exactly a week after Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed visit to Asmara.
The bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”