Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been in office for a little over a month now. He has clearly shown how regional ties are of importance to him with his overseas visits.
In the space of a week, Abiy visited Djibouti and Sudan for bilateral and economic talks which yielded stakes in ports of the two nations.
Ethiopia, a landlocked economic giant has till date relied on Djibouti for its sea freight transactions. The deals to be involved in Port of Djibouti and Port Sudan are significant for its continued economic growth.
But Ethiopia’s biggest and chepeast port, all things being equal, would have been the Assab and Massawa ports of Eritrea. The reasons it can’t access those ports are very well documented.
May 6, 2018; marked two decades after the Ethio-Eritrean war that claimed thousands of lives and destroyed relations between the two countries linked by religion, culture, blood, language and marriage.
Abiy made particular mention of Eritrea in his inaugural speech which was seen as unifying at home and across the region.
Aside Djibouti and Sudan, Ethiopia’s remaining neighbours in the Horn of Africa are Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea. Will Eritrea be Abiy’s next stop?
Talk is ongoing about how the grounds had never been more fruitful for normalization talks. On the Eritrean end, it seems pretty straightforward, that Ethiopia gives back town of Badme – it’s that simple, a town awarded to Eritrea by international law.
Will Addis Ababa give back (a piece of land) in order to get back (relations)? Mind you, Eritrea has not spoken about having arms sanctions lifted but that certainly will be part of any plans many political watchers have said.
Can Abiy go beyond the talk that Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn advocated? The reason for which Asmara still remains skeptical of big talk from the big neighbour? Time, only time will tell.