By Rick Gladstone
NYT – Ethiopia announced Tuesday that it would accept a 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea over their disputed border, potentially a major step toward resolving one of post-colonial Africa’s bloodiest and most protracted conflicts.
A statement by the governing party of Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, said it would “fully accept and implement” the agreement with Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, which was signed but never honored.
“The Eritrean government should take the same stand without any prerequisite and accept our call to bring back the long-lost peace of the two brother nations as it was before,” the governing party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, said in the statement.
The countries fought a war from 1998 to 2000 over their border dispute, which left about 80,000 people dead. They signed a peace agreement in 2000, but the Ethiopians never accepted the findings of a boundary commission established by the agreement.
The border has been a deadly point of contention ever since, and the dispute had been widely regarded as a diplomatic stalemate.
But Ethiopia signaled a few months ago that it wished to resolve the problem when its new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, vowed in his inaugural address to seek peace with Eritrea.
Ethiopia’s major objection was the boundary commission’s decision to award Eritrea the border town of Badme. The Eritrean government contended that there could be no resolution until the Ethiopians withdrew their troops from Badme, as the commission had ordered.
“It’s always been Eritrea’s position that the commission’s ruling is the commission’s ruling,” said Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research group. “The Eritreans know they’re in the right.”
It remains unclear how the Eritrean government will respond to Ethiopia’s announcement. But Ms. Bruton said she thought that “Ethiopia is really signaling its seriousness” to finally resolve the dispute.