While I was trying hard to find the English equivalent for the Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s Amharic word “ Medemer”, somebody suggested the English word “synergy” which somehow gave a bit closer meaning to the word uttered by the Prime Minister on his inaugural address to the HPR.
Philosophically synergy implies a rapprochement and pulling resources together to achieve a desired goal. This perfectly synchronizes with what is going on between Eretria and Ethiopia.
The prime ministers’ medemer seems to work for all the neighboring countries and is of late perfectly applicable to Ethio-Ereterian rapprochement that is taking the concept to an even higher level of interpretation. Popular parlance denotes that Ethiopians and Eritreans are the same people living in two different countries. With all the respect for such an idea, I beg to differ in the sense that taken singly, Ethiopians and Eritreans do not constitute a homogeneous society both in terms of ethnicity and class stratification.
However, just like in Ethiopia, the unity between the two countries emanates from the diversities in both countries which partially share common history, tradition and a labyrinth of cultural values.
The decision made by the EPRDF executive committee clearly denotes Ethiopia’s desire to resolve the hatred and animosity that prevailed between the two countries for over 65 years since 1953. This is a historical decision and a unique opportunity ushering a new era in the political life of the peoples of the two countries.
Both countries have expended a huge amount of financial and an unfathomable number of lives trying to settle their disputes through show of force and prolonged war which utterly depleted their economies.
Moreover, the trauma that the residents in the border areas of the two countries had to sustain will certainly be scooped up from the minds of the peoples of both countries.
Over the last two decades, both countries lost huge opportunities that they could have exploited to ascertain their mutual development and to promote peace in the war torn Horn of Africa.
The war has ended in the separation of families who have lost track of each other. There was a loss of property on both sides of the border of both countries. Practice has vividly showed that war never paid off.
There is a lot to be desired in the future but the major decisions made through the agreements signed between the leaders of both countries are paving a remarkable path towards meaningful and mutually beneficial gains for both countries. The opening of aviation facilities for Ethiopian and Eritrean Airlines, Ethiopia’s access to the Port Assab, reopening of the embassies of both countries in Asmera and Addis Ababa in a very swift manner shows that the leaders of both countries according to President Esayas Afeworki “are determined to make up for the lost years” which should have been utilized for the common good.
There is already a social bond between Ethiopians and Eritreans has the peoples of both countries have been linked through inter-marriage and all kinds of kinship relations. The current tempo of nostalgia from pre-war years need to be replaced by mutual trust and confidence building process which could understandably take some times.
While civil war is still raging in South Sudan and in the event of civil strife in Libya and a number of African countries, peace is being built in the most unprecedented manner between Ethiopia and Eretria who were arch enemies in the Horn of Africa.
Both countries can depend on their comparative economic advantages and use their opportunity costs in boosting trade, tourism, and cultural exchange, exchange of scientific and technological knowledge for the benefit of both countries.
All the more, the peoples of both countries need to undergo some kind of a cultural revolution which would help them to shift from animosity to love and from suspicion to practical mutual trust. This of course is not easy and may not be expected over time but the current trend between the peoples of both countries should be cultivated to ensure lasting peace and mutual development.
One should clearly note that the actual difference that led to the war between both countries is not about borders that were demarcated during the colonial era. It was because of this that Prime Minister Dr. Abiy and President Esayas Afeworki did not focus on the border issue from the outset, If both countries are engaged in economic integration and strong cultural bondage through formal diplomatic and public diplomacy efforts, the border issue becomes gradually become secondary if not totally irrelevant.
Even at this stage, Ethiopia and Eretria are setting a historic example for the rest of Africa in handling age old conflicts. While working together for the promotion of peace and development in their respective countries, Ethiopia and Eretria can engage themselves in IGAD, AU and other continental and global organizations for the promotion of peace, the struggle against terrorism, climate change, poverty reduction, global health initiatives and a bulk of other activities to give a better and peaceful life for the coming generation in both countries and the African region.
Both countries have challenges that they should face together and individually. In the first place the citizens of both countries are expected to benefit from the dividends of peace and development. On the other hand, poverty and utter destitution is still rampant in both countries.
The economies of both countries are based on few agricultural raw products whose prices are controlled by international monopoly prices making both countries highly dependent on foreign support and assistance.
Compared to some northern African countries, the level of technological development in both countries is still very low. However, if both countries work together, they can share their resources in the areas in which each country excels. For instance both countries can cooperate in the areas of education, agricultural modernization, development of health institutions and a number of areas on which they can support each other to ensure mutual benefits for the two countries.
Prime Minister Dr. Abiy has requested the UNSC to lift the sanctions that it has imposed on Eretria for quite a few years. This indicates that Ethiopia and Eretria can boost their relations in the areas of international diplomacy.
Ethiopia and Eretria now have an excellent opportunity to promote media relations between the two countries through program exchange mechanisms and sharing of information regarding the relationship between the two countries. Ethiopian and Eritrean persons of creative arts can conduct joint exhibitions, musical concerts and exchange of visits in their respective areas of arts.
National conferences of scholars of both countries can work together to promote peace and stability between the peoples of both countries. Religious leaders and sportspersons can arrange sports festival and trade fair and exhibitions as a tool for cementing economic ties between the peoples of both countries.
By and large both countries can work together in establishing joint centers of excellence in various fields while Ethiopia can now start to think of joint ventures in infrastructural and hydropower sharing for the industries in Eretria.
Although the road was extremely torturous, both countries can creatively work on peace and harmony between the youth of both countries. The future is of course bright for both countries who are expected to move fast to make up for pervious losses.
BY SOLOMON DIBABA – The Ethiopian Herald