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What Now for Ethiopia: Risks and Opportunities?

Opinion is currently divided on Ethiopia’s future.
On one hand of the spectrum, there are those who believe that Ethiopia is a train wreck, highly charged along ethnic lines and facing complex political and security problems. These skeptics highlight the persistent insecurity in many parts of the state.
This week’s violent murder of the project manager of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Semegnew Bekele, is yet another indicator of how fragile the security situation is. This incident has horribly unnerved Ethiopia, triggering anguish about the country’s national security capabilities.
Given the role Semegnew Bekele and the political dimension of the project, his murder was a profound shock to the public.
What will be the impact of this episode? We don’t know. But clearly people increasingly feel that criminal elements in Ethiopia are now able to operate with impunity.
On the other side of the equation, the optimists believe that Ethiopia, with its new leader Dr. Aby Ahmed, is paused to become the next emerging nation in Africa. These folks point to the new winds of change blowing across Ethiopia, they argue that the strong aspiration for unity, the high support of the international community, the peace accord with Eritrea, and the relatively high growth level, still make Ethiopia’s prospects look promising.
So, given such conflicting views, it is hardly surprising that the public is confused about Ethiopia. I am inclined to go with the optimists. And let me just take one issue: Eritrea. Now that the Party is over, how exactly should we deal with fallout from the peace truce?
In his book, “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu notes: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”  There is a significant amount of strategy and doctrine over the years that have attempted to achieve these ends. I don’t know if the quote truly applies to the Ethio-Eritrea peace deal of last month, but when two belligerents come together to gain advantage without war, that’s when true success lies.
A Nobel prize for both PM Aby and President Isaias is no joke!
Why not!
They both deserve it, as opposed to, say, President Trump who thinks he should get the Nobel Prize for only brokering a potential peace?
Moreover, it looks like the PM is personally invested in engagement with Eritrea; for now TPLF may find it difficult to resist, whatever reservations they may have. – Wisdom dictates! The two countries should address and resolve the causes of tension and take all possible measures to avert future hostilities by adopting a system of binding rules that embody clarity, predictability, and equal applicability for their development.
One best way of doing this is to move on towards the establishment of a common market (by 2020 ) through the elimination of all trade barriers and the establishment of a common external trade policy. This is important not just to cement the peace, but also to promote integration for a lasting reconciliation of both countries, thereby reducing the potential for war. Both countries can also plan ahead to complete an economic and monetary union, which include the creation of a single currency (by 2022), while at the same time they coordinate or align their foreign and security policy and strengthen police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Interesting timing for economic union, don’t you think?
Indeed, such a move would be a stunning evolution for Ethiopia. It would increase jobs, make us more competitive regionally and strengthen our cooperation with Eritrea, and even attract neighboring countries to join in the common market in the future.
True, free trade may not have been central to Ethiopia’s past economic policies, but this initiative with Eritrea can, in a modest way at least for now, provide further assurance of stability and prosperity.
Finally, don’t forget the big strategic picture. Our international security, in an ever more dangerous Red Sea region, is incalculably enhanced by having stable and friendly ally to our north. Reinforcing our commitment to shared prosperity with our Eritrean neighbors through a common market is the kind of reassurance Ethiopian leaders should advance.
So, there you have it. All the conditions are now in place for these two countries to call the negotiators, and move forward.


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