After decades of conflict, Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed upon a historic peace agreement declaring their state of war is over on Tuesday.
Since 2000, the two countries have been in conflict after a failed peace agreement due to a dispute in ownership over the town of Badme. The strife continued to escalate after Eritrea was accused of backing Islamic groups in Somalia’s internal conflict while Ethiopia supported Somalia’s internationally recognized government. The United Nations had placed sanctions on Eritrea after findings of the nations involvement in Somali’s clash.
The peace agreement between the two countries marks a great warming of relations between the nations, along with benefits for both. Leaders of both countries announced political, economic, and diplomatic ties would be improved, including commercial flights and telephone calls being permitted again between the countries. Additionally, embassies are being re-established in each countries respective capitals.
In reaction to the peace agreement, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres remarked that there is a “wind blowing in the direction of peace” in Africa while at the second annual U.N.-African Union conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “All this gives us hope that the African continent will be moving more and more in the right direction in peace and security,” he continued, emphasizing the need for increased stability in the continent.
The Secretary-General also indicated the high probability of current U.N. sanctions against Eritrea becoming “obsolete.” During a press encounter with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, António Guterres emphasized the importance of the two countries coming together to “pave the way for the solution of many other problems” but ultimately, the lifting of sanctions remains a decision for the Security Council. The Security Council welcomed the agreement, remarking they “recognized the call in the Joint Declaration for solidarity and support, and encouraged all actors to offer their support to the peace process.”
Eritrea was previously a colony of Italy since the 1890s. After Fascist leader Mussolini rose to power, he had called the city of Asmara “La Piccola Roma” meaning “the little Rome” as Italy’s fascist government encouraged emigration into the country from Italy. The emigration of Italian architects and engineers transformed the colony into a unique hybrid of Euro-African culture. As a result, by 1939 half of Eritrea’s population consisted of Italians.
After the second world war, Eritrea’s territory was incorporated into Ethiopia. Eritrea had finally gained its own independence in 1991 after being colonized by the Ottomans, the Egyptians, the Italians, the British and then the Ethiopians.
Currently, Eritrea remains one of the most secretive countries in the world due to the governments tight grip on media. Both the press and tourists have little to no entry into the nation, and it is often compared to North Korea. It is currently ranked 179 out of 180 countries on the 2018 World Free Press Index.