Can Abiy Ahmed calm the Horn?

Author:Hammond, Joseph
Position:Analysis/The Horn - Essay

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's 42-year-old prime minister (pictured below), is attempting to build on the peace agreement signed with Eritrea last year and position himself as a peacemaker in the Horn of Africa and potentially beyond. The benefits, if he succeeds, could be an economic resurgence in the Horn as well as a welcome lowering of the political temperature. But it will not be an easy task. Analysis by Joseph Hammond.

Apart from the rapprochement with Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed hasn't been afraid to tackle the region's biggest challenges--with varying degrees of success--in South Sudan and Somalia as well as between Somalia and Kenya. Starting this year, he took on quite a large diplomatic portfolio in a short period of time.

On 20 February, Ahmed hosted Muse Bihi Abdi, President of the breakaway northern Somalia territory of Somaliland. While Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, declined to attend the event, the pair discussed regional peace and integration, reportedly agreeing to strengthen bilateral relations and trade collaboration.

Two weeks later, on 4 March, Abiy Ahmed joined President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea injuba to revitalise the eight-country Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led peace process in South Sudan, which included a meeting with President Salva Kiir.

Three days later, Ahmed facilitated a meeting between Somalia's President Farmajo and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi over the disputed maritime border. With potential oil and gas assets at stake, Mogadishu has now decided to leave the border issue to be adjudicated by the International Court of justice, and the two leaders agreed to allow back their respective envoys as a way of "restoring relations".

"Abiy Ahmed wants to diversify Ethiopia's trade routes by supporting greater economic integration and transport links in the Horn and wider East Africa," says Jordan Anderson, an analyst at IHS Markit, a political risk consultancy. "Regional peace is necessary to fully realise this integration, so that is likely a key driver of Ahmed playing a regional peacemaking role."

Sudanese-Ethiopian ties have also strengthened under Abiy Ahmed, for economic reasons. Data compiled by Asoko Insight, a consultancy, shows that China, India, the US and Sudan have been the top four sources of FDI by number of projects in Ethiopia since 1993. For its part Sudan has supported the Ethiopian perspective on the Grand Renaissance Dam, which has...

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