BY BEREKET KIDANE
An American proverb says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” The same thing can be said about demarcated borders. Demarcated borders make for good neighbors.
Eritrea must demarcate its border with Ethiopia not to separate itself from its neighbor but to prevent future territorial disputes.
The highly destructive 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrean border war has left both countries deeply scarred. The memories are still raw and painful. It will take time to heal the wounds left by the legacy of that war.
Regardless, Eritreans and Ethiopians are happy to leave the legacy of the devastating war behind and embark on a new era of cooperation and good neighborliness.
The best way to ensure there are no future border clashes is through demarcated borders.
The benefits of demarcated borders are many and the timing is appropriate.
Firstly, bilateral relations are about to be established between Ethiopia and Eritrea after a long hiatus. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has the popularity and ability to take on the full implementation of the Algiers Agreement. United Nation’s cartographic units are ready to assist in that endeavor. In fact, they have been ready to assist all those years. The only thing missing was Ethiopia’s commitment.
Secondly, the countries of the Horn and East Africa have talked incessantly about regional cooperation and integration of economies. To make that happen, Ethiopia as the most populous country in the Horn must bear its responsibility in bringing peace to this sensitive region.
Thirdly, demarcated borders make for good neighbors. There are known mineral deposits and natural gas reserves along the Ethio-Eritrean border that could lead to future territorial disputes without clearly demarcated borders.
Once the boundary is demarcated, the two countries will have to agree on a maintenance regime for repair or reconstruction of defective columns, pillars, and markers. Setting up a joint commission that holds regular meetings and reports to the highest authorities in both countries would be preferable so that the two countries can work together and share the maintenance and management of their borders.
The details of the recent talks between the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments have not been revealed yet, but one thing that has been made abundantly clear over the last week is the Ethiopian and Eritrean people’s hunger for peace and the resumption of brotherly relations.
It was encouraging to see Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed go on record committing his country to the full implementation of the Algiers Agreement.
Demarcating the already delimited boundary will achieve the goal of peace, security, and stability for both countries, which will translate into positive economic consequences not just for the two countries but for the region at large.