Djibouti and Eritrea Agree to End Stalemate
On Thursday Sept. 6, Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to normalize relations after over a decade of diplomatic stalemate.
The two nations have long been at odds over the disputed border region of Doumeira, which Djibouti claims is being illegally occupied by Eritrea. The countries almost went to war in April 1996, when Eritrea was accused by a Djibouti official of shelling the town of Ras Doumeira. Tensions arose again in 1999 when Djibouti was accused of siding with Asmara’s former rival, Ethiopia. Djibouti, for its part, accused Eritrea of supporting Djiboutian rebels. Clashes erupted in 2008 after Eritrean forces were accused of digging trenches that intruded on Djibouti territory. Eritrea denied these allegations.
In 2010, the two countries agreed to have Qatar mediate their boundary dispute, but tensions resurfaced in mid-2017 after Qatar pulled its peacekeepers out of Doumeira. This decision came days after Djibouti and Eritrea made announcements siding with Saudi Arabia in the Gulf crisis, downgrading their diplomatic relations with Qatar.
Last July, Djibouti’s UN ambassador called upon the UN Secretary-General for assistance in “facilitating an agreement” with Eritrea.
Eritrea has recently sought to lift these sanctions and made efforts to pacify relations between its neighbors in the region. A historic peace pact signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in June declared an end to a decades-long state of war and included agreements to open embassies, develop ports, and resume flights between the two countries.
Somalia announced in July that it supported lifting the sanctions after reaching its own peace deal with Eritrea, “one of the world’s most closed off nations.”
Just one day prior to reaching the agreement in Djibouti, a tripartite pact was signed between the leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, a clear sign that peace has become an increasingly important goal, one that requires coordinated efforts throughout the region.
According to many political and security analysts, the conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea was seen as the “final rift needed to be solved to restore durable peace to the Horn of Africa region.”
Leaders in the region and beyond are celebrating this renewal of diplomatic ties. Many are expressing great hope for the future of the Horn of Africa and its stability.
“These regionally-led initiatives are a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of African solutions to African problems for the Africa we want,” said Moussi Faki, chairman of the African Union Commission.
Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Djibouti’s ambassador to the UN, said he is “hopeful that this is signaling a radical change in ways of doing things in the Horn...What’s happening is momentous.”