The relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia is arguably the most important and volatile in East Africa. The fall-out between the former brothers-in-arms initiated a two-year-long border war in 1998, which claimed around 100,000 causalities, cost billions of dollars, and continues to serve as the main source of regional instability in the Horn of Africa.
The fighting was brought to an end with the signing of the Algiers Peace Agreement and establishment of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) in 2000. However, Ethiopia's refusal to implement the rulings of the EEBC prior to negotiations and Eritrea's insistence on an unconditional and immediate demarcation of the border, have locked the two governments in an intractable stalemate.
Despite the official cessation of hostilities in 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea continued their war through proxies by supporting various rebel movements throughout the Horn of Africa. In this way, they have been fuelling conflict and instability in each other's countries as well as the wider region.
Thirteen years after the Algiers Peace Agreement, domestic conditions in both states and the regional geopolitical equation have undergone substantial changes.
Ethiopia lost its long-time strongman, Meles Zenawi, in 2012. There are strong indications that Eritrea is also very likely to see the departure of its own leader, President Isaias Afwerki, in the near future. Moreover, Ethiopia has been experiencing robust economic growth and political stability over the last decade, a development that has also coincided with a significant weakening of its regional adversaries.
The political standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea has very much been tied to the role, interests and historical experiences of particular individuals and circles that hail from one generation - the Marxist-Leninist student movements turned guerrilla fighters in the 1960s and 1970s. With the political and generational changes that are taking place in both countries, a normalisation of relations between these two states might take place in the not so distant future.
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