New power balance emerges in The Horn: The stunning rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, ending a bitter, two-decade-long conflict, is likely to lead to a redrawing of the geopolitical map of The Horn, with considerable ripple effects across the region.

Author:Jeffrey, James
Position:Around Africa: Ethiopia/Eritrea
 
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Ethiopia and Eritrea continue to shake up the geo-political scene in the Horn of Africa --and for once the news appears good, very good, while the pace of change has left everyone gasping.

At the beginning of June, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stunned all by announcing Ethiopia was ready to give the disputed territory of Badme back to Eritrea, leading to a rapprochement between the two sworn enemies that shows no signs of slowing down, with potentially momentous implications for the countries' economies and peoples, and for the surrounding region.

Badme is where a terrible two-year war broke out in 1998 between the two countries that were once comrades in arms, and even after the 2000 ceasefire, Badme continued to act as a lightning rod for antipathy between the two after Ethiopia refused to comply with the internationally brokered Algiers Peace Accord, which included ceding Badme to Eritrea.

Initially Eritrea's leader, Isaias Afwerki, seemed as caught off-guard as everyone else by Ethiopia's announcement, before sending a delegation led by his Foreign Minister to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, a week later.

Then on 8 July, Abiy became the first Ethiopian leader to visit Eritrea in nearly two decades. After touching down at the airport in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, Abiy embraced Isaias before conducting an official state visit during which Eritrean state television showed the two leaders smiling and laughing together.

"We have agreed to open up embassies in our respective countries, allow our people to visit each other's cities, and allow our airlines and ports to operate freely," Abiv said at a banquet capping the historic visit and officially announcing that relations will be normalised. "Love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara."

Ethiopian Airlines made the first flight to the Eritrean capital, Asmara in over 20 years. Passengers, who sang and danced in the aisles during the 60-minute flight, were given roses and champagne to celebrate the occasion but many broke into tears on landing on Eritrean soil.

The flow of goodwill has only continued, and in mid-July Isaias made an equally historic visit to Ethiopia, which included reopening the Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa as the flags of the two nations flew bright and sharp, and people danced and ululated in celebration.

Redrawing the geopolitical map

Following more than two years...

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