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Lest hands extended in peace are clenched!

Lest hands extended in peace are clenched!

There is a saying that goes, “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.”  It’s the responsibility of this generation to erase decades of hatred and vindictiveness with love and forgiveness. The scenes of unfettered jubilation witnessed last Sunday on the streets of Asmara during the state visit of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to Eritrea bear testimony to the fact that the wall of hatred crumbles in the face of love and forgiveness. The beaming smile that graced the usually stern President Isaias Afewerki illustrates that hatred is a cancer. The raft of flaws that beset the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993 have had catastrophic consequences leading to a war that killed and traumatized hundreds of thousands, displaced several thousands from their homes, wreaked havoc on the economies of two of the poorest nations on earth. Moreover, the relationship between the brotherly people of the countries has been marred with an atmosphere of enmity and distrust for twenty years now. Both have squandered golden opportunities due to the absence of a wise leadership. If this sad chapter is to be closed and a new era of brotherly love and solidarity is to begin it is imperative to see to it that the hands extended in friendship are not clenched.

The effusive welcome extended to the Ethiopian delegation headed by the Prime during its stay is proof that love is a potent force in winning hearts and minds. Massing troops and artillery along the borders of the two countries has had no use in bringing about peace. The new chapter that the premier’s groundbreaking visit opens can yield enduring dividends insofar as we shed the last ounce of hatred within us. If we want our Eritrean brethren to clasp with love the hands of peace we extend them we must first be at peace with ourselves. When we embark on the journey to peace and reconciliation Eritreans with whom we have been apart for over two decades will greet us with palm fronds. This is precisely what the residents of Asmara did last Sunday.

The far-sighted people of Ethiopia on their part have amply demonstrated that they empathize with the plight of their Eritrean brothers. Ethiopians have never had any reason to harbor animosity towards fellow citizens or other people. Hence, elements opposed to the aspirations of the two people must stop spewing poisonous rhetoric on social media. Bent on dousing out the flames of hope that the public had been yearning for these peddlers of a patently bankrupt ideology have no qualms about inciting violence and sowing the seeds of internecine conflicts. They may fool the people once. But the narrative of doom and gloom they continue to sell with the intention of dampening the palpable enthusiasm created thanks to the prospects of the resumption of friendly ties between Ethiopia and Eritrea has exposed their true colors. No one should lend an ear to the reprehensible views they espouse and rather join hands to make up for lost time for the sake of achieving peace, development and prosperity in the two nations.  

Any citizen who truly loves his country finds peace when he has a clear conscience. Being consume with hatred, vindictiveness and distrust is a recipe for catastrophe and destruction. The message of peace love, peace and reconciliation that Prime Minister Abiy bore in his visit to Asmara can be credited with the dying down of the hostility bubbling in President Isaias and other Eritreans. If his heart-felt call for peace causes the prevailing atmosphere of festering rancor to dissipate, there is no excuse preventing peaceful coexistence between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Keeping one’s promise and respecting the public helps to stamp out the ill feeling and mistrust that has characterized relations among the two. Any lingering doubt can be dispelled by the manifest good will on both sides. Even as the dawn of new bilateral relations is on the horizon it is crucial to watch out against efforts to derail it. Aside from contributing its share to extricating the people of the two nations from the clutches of poverty, the restoration of amicable ties go a long way towards bringing stability to a region that has long been beset with conflicts. Naturally all this requires the deepening of people-to-people ties underpinned by peacemaking endeavors.

True there a raft of measures which need to be taken before Ethio-Eritrea relations are normalized. Whether on the political, economic or diplomatic front these steps have to be informed by the long-term interests of their respective people. Accordingly, the governments of the two states owe the duty of ensuring that Ethiopians and Eritreans forge closer ties with their compatriots whom they long to see after years of separation. The hands of peace must not be extended for public relations purpose; the gesture should be genuine if it is to be reciprocated. In view of this it is of the essence to heal embittered hearts with love and forgiveness. Belligerence and jingoism are anachronisms that are not fitting in this age of love and reconciliation and as such ought to be rejected for the common good of the people of both nations.

The joyous reception that Prime Minister Abiy got on that historic Sunday in Asmara where Eritrean mothers greeted him with ululations and hugs is ample evidence of their desire to close the bloody chapter of the past. The “border” war of 1998-2000, which left many with emotional scars, has destabilized the Horn of Africa since it broke out. The citizens of the two countries, particularly those living along the disputed border, have been the hardest hit both economically and socially. To make matters war hard-to-come-by funds that could have been spent on building roads, schools and hospitals were set aside for the acquisition of armament for troops massed alongside the border and other purposes. It’s pre-eminently sensible for countries battered by political instability and poverty to seize with both hands the opportunity created by the thawing of the icy relationship between them. As the Prime Minister love and forgiveness have won over hearts and minds that war has not. This is why it’s incumbent on both Ethiopia and Eritrea to commit themselves to assuring that the hands extended in peace are not clenched!