Monday, 21 June, 2021

A fair deal? By Fetsum Berhane

Upto last month, Ethiopia had three diplomatic cards (leverages) over Eritrea, which were supposed to get her a favorable terms in a peace deal.

The 1st card was Normalization of relations

Ethiopia, being the stronger military and economically power, has greater potential to do harm to Eritrea. That puts a stress on Eritrea. Hence, Eritrea is the one that benefits from Normalization of relations. It has much economic (port rent & imports) and defense relief for the small country.
Ethiopia dropped that card this week.

The 2nd card was the Algiers agreement

The implementation of the Algiers agreement gives Eritrea and Isayas the justification for the invasion and the decade long dictatorial rule. To avoid that and to use it as leverage in future negotiations, Ethiopia put a 5 point precondition. Negotiations on demarcation was also one of the preconditions. Ethiopia dropped that card last month. The 3rd card was the sanctions regime that was put on Eritrea.

The sanctions, which were incrementally built up to current strength took years of painstaking lobbying and diplomacy to be achieved. The lifting of these was supposed to be a leverage for Ethiopia To ensure a favorable peace deal.
Ethiopia dropped that card as well.

Now, we shall examine what Ethiopia got in return. Keep in mind that in diplomacy something being “good” doesn’t make it fair/proportional.

– Peace
The cessation of hostilities is something that benefits Eritrea more than Ethiopia. Hence it is difficult to consider that as Ethiopias gain. At best we can say it’s a mutual gain.

– Eritrea agreed to normalization of relations
Even though that is good for all we already established that Eritrea benefits more from it.

– The concession of 20% stakes in Eritrea Airline.
Eritrean Airlines, according to my previous information, consists of one aircraft that was rented from Saudi. Hence it’s practically nonexistent. Hence, we can see the agreement as a goodwill gesture and not more than that.

Mind You that there is no guarantee that Eritrea will respect even these weak concessions. The leverages that would have helped in implementation have already been given up. (Rejecting demarcation again or getting new sanctions are impossible to do).

Opening Of The border would also result in a huge refugee flow towards Ethiopia based on the recent trend. Afterall Eritrea will still be under Isayas which the people wish to escape. Ethiopians in the border area will continue hosting their Eritrean brothers offcourse. But that requires financial and other preparations to be taken into consideration.

Taking into account Isaias’s unreliablity and the cost Ethiopia paid for trusting Shabia after independence, dropping leverages by trusting Isaias again is not wise. The cost we will pay if this deal fails is also greater than before.

I would have urged scholars and the social media crowd to carefully inspect the process. I know the prospect of peace is alluring and makes one happy. But peace can only work with a reliable partner or/and a carefully examined deal.
But since everyone is busy on political goal scoring than national interest I don’t expect there will be a discussion on this.
I also don’t expect the parliament to examine the entire process.
Hence I will just forward my two cents and move on. I hope and pray peace prevails over the pitfalls.

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