A peace in Africa cemented in forgiveness

Ethiopia and Eritrea ended a two-decade conflict with a deal that their two leaders say was based on forgiving each other for past offenses.

AP Photo
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, on left, holds the hand of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 15. Official rivals just weeks ago, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war.

The new prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, made a bold assertion last week after he helped end a two-decade conflict with neighboring Eritrea. “The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond,” said the young reformist leader who holds a doctorate in peace studies.

The example is not simply that peace broke out quickly between the two countries on the Horn of Africa, where a war between them had killed more than 70,000. While the reconciliation was widely welcomed, Prime Minister Abiy and his counterpart, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, also tried, as they exchanged visits to each other’s capitals, to explain their motives in forging a peace.

A key motive, they indicated, was to offer mercy to the other side after years of conflict over a border dispute, driven in part by ethnic tensions.

“Forgiveness frees the consciousness,” said Abiy. “When we say we have reconciled, we mean we have chosen a path of forgiveness and love.”

And, he added, “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 [Eritrea’s capital].”

For his part, President Isaias promised the two countries would move forward as one. “No one can steal the love we have regained now. Now is the time to make up for the lost times.”

Vast crowds cheered the two men in their visits as they took steps to bring Eritrea and Ethiopia together. They opened embassies in each other’s country, restored phone and airline service, and made plans to demarcate the border and establish trade links.

The two sides had many economic and political reasons to reconcile, aided by foreign help from the World Council of Churches, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and others. Both are dealing with high joblessness. Eritrea has seen a mass exodus of people to Europe while Ethiopia saw mass protests recently that shook the ruling party and brought Abiy to power in April.

Their conflict had long had repercussions in nearby countries, such as Somalia and South Sudan. And with Eritrea situated across the Red Sea from Yemen and its violent conflict, Arab leaders had reason to seek peace on the Horn of Africa.

Now the peace deal, and the heartfelt motives behind it, may be examples for the nations involved in the many unfinished wars in Africa. The resumption of ties, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, was “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing” across the continent.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea still have far to go to establish free and democratic governance. Their conflict was a frequent excuse to suppress dissent.

But said Isaias, “Hate, discrimination and conspiracy is now over.” Each side appears ready to set an example for other nations to follow.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A peace in Africa cemented in forgiveness
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today