Eritrea and Ethiopia were this week reinforcing the path to peace and reconciliation after 20 years of devastating hostility when the former opened an embassy in Addis Ababa.
The demonstrable predisposition by Ethiopia’s new Premier Abiy Ahmed to pursue policies that promote peace and harmony both inside his country and with neighbours holds promise and hope for the Horn of Africa, a region wracked by tension and insecurity due to intransigence and belligerent posturing by leaders even as it costs Africa horrendously in human lives and development opportunities.
But even more heartening for Africa is that as Eritrea’s Isaya Afewerki and Abiy were committing themselves and their countries to long elusive coexistence and good neighbourliness, in Brussels, Belgium, a conference under auspices of the Somali Partnership Forum got underway.
The pain and damage the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict has inflicted on the two fraternal States is unquantifiable. It has cost tens of thousands of lives, misdirected investment in military ware at the expense of growth, triggered massive outflow of refugees, especially for Eritrea, which has seen tens of thousands flee to avoid conscription into military and earned the Asmara government virtual pariah status.
On the other hand successive conferences on Somalia have sought to marshal resources to stabilise a country scarred by horrific acts of brutality and endemic insecurity. Except for Afghanistan, no State in the modern era has been through what Somalis have witnessed. Somalia has been without central authority since Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown close to three decades ago.
Indeed Somalia remains the most frequently cited failed State, blighted by warlordism, savage clan and fratricidal animosities and the cancer of jihadism, triggering the flight of millions of refugees, with Kenya taking in half a million.
The Brussels conference is attended by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi (Farmajo), also drawn in are delegations from Puntland, and semi-autonomous regions like Jubaland and Galmudug.
Al Shabbab insurgency continues to inflict horror on Kenya which shares a 1,500km porous border with Somalia that is virtually impossible to police. We continue to suffer terror attacks on civilians and military targets yet Kenya remains key pillar in shoring up the besieged Mogadishu regime and stability of the Horn in general.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly appealed to the international community and humanitarian instruments to scale up material assistance to help stabilise Somalia and strengthen the hand of the Mogadishu government as it grapples with security and economic challenges, including post-conflict reconstruction which are part of what the Brussels conference targets.