The fact that the destiny of Ethiopia and Eritrea is tied for eternity, is stating the obvious. Despite the political fallouts of their respective leadership, for generations, the people have shared values, culture, history, and popular aspirations. The historical circumstances that led to them becoming two nations is something many, on both sides, have come to regret.
Nonetheless, Eritrea is a member of the world community, with its belligerent leader who is discourteous to multilateral organisations, from the United Nations to the African Union, and contemptuous of regional bodies such as Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
It ought not to be surprising for Monsieur Issayas Afeworki who has put his country at odds with almost all its neighbours ranging from Yemen, across the Red Sea, to its cousin, Ethiopia, that the leadership of Asmara and Addis Abeba have been bitter foes for over a decade now, which is reminiscent of a nasty squabble between family members.
Yet, Addis Abeba is not only the seat of Ethiopia’s federal government; it is more than that. The city houses the headquarters of the continental body, the AU, earning it a position as the political and diplomatic capital of Africa, with the fourth largest diplomatic representation in the world.
Alas, Eritrean diplomats, since the bloody border dispute with Ethiopia 10 years ago, and due to the subsequent no-war-no-peace status quo, have been glaringly absent from the diplomatic corridors of Addis Abeba.
Over the years, its president has not been tempted to come through Bole International Airport to attend any of the several heads of state summits, including the landmark summit that transformed the OAU to the AU.
Would Ethiopian authorities have a problem with him participating at the AU summits in Addis?
Ethiopian authorities have always asserted that they would not. In fact, they likened the possibility thereof to the visits of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the UN headquarters in New York despite the tense relationship between the US and Iran.
Last year, the Eritrean government accused Ethiopian authorities of refusing to let Eritrean ministers and diplomats enter Ethiopia to participate in the AU meetings. Ethiopian authorities dismissed the allegation as baseless and now they want to prove that they meant what they said.
The foreign office wrote a letter to the AU, stating that Eritrean diplomats are free to come to Addis and reopen their, otherwise deserted, embassy here, gossip disclosed. Furthermore, the Eritrean government could probably reinvigorate the green-white building at Meskel Square, with the new appointment of Girma Asmerom as Eritrea’s ambassador to the AU, disclosed gossip.
Girma, whose contemporaries know him as a superb footballer, is not alien to Ethiopia, for he was born in Dessie and grew up in Ethiopia, before he joined the rebels in the north back in the 1970s. Nor will he be new to the embassy compound for he served as Eritrea’s second ambassador to Ethiopia after his country seceded and gained nation status from the UN in the mid 1990s.
In fact, Girma was serving as his young nation’s ambassador when his president tied on the straw that broke the camel’s back in 1999; Issayas sent his troops to invade the border town of Badme, and the small town has remained in the collective consciousness of both nations ever since. (Addisfortune)