Ethiopia-Djibouti: An Impending UNION in the air


ethio_djibotiDjibouti is not just another friendly neighbour for Ethiopia. The relationship of the two countries dates back to the history of the competition for the scramble for land among colonising powers, a.k.a the scramble for Africa, like Great Britain and Italy, which necessitated the intervention of the French as a buffer zone following the wisdom of the Ethiopian government of the time to protect the country from colonisation.

Located on the eastern border of Ethiopia with a population of over 872,000 and consisting of the two major ethnic groups, Afar and Issa, Djibouti has social, historical and economical interests in common with Ethiopia. If the African Union dream is to be realised, there seems to be no better place to start in the country where the very charter of unity was signed.

The recent political initiatives being expressed through diplomatic engagements testifies that the two countries have realised that the existing conducive situations, which can serve as prerequisites, can never be closer for up scaling the relations towards a potential union of a sort. It is about time, if not overdue, to start inviting public opinion on the subject.

We can say the same about Ethio-Eritrean relationship and the potentials that exist to restore unity, after ironing out certain differences. Of course, we have to realise that the social, cultural, historical and economic interdependence alone is not enough. There are certain issues to behold.

It should be taken into account that political leaders can play vital roles. They can sit around the table and conduct face to face discussions to streamline the wishes and desires of Africa.

Whenever the subject of the railway transport is raised, it strikes a chord in one’s mind that the Ethio-Djibouti railway track is not only a lifeline for Djiboutians, but also an important outlet for Ethiopia as it has become a landlocked country. That situation, obviously, has made Ethiopia more vulnerable.

Seen in the light of the oncoming railway network projects under construction, the pressure on the maritime transit and stevedoring operation, needless to say, is bound to increase by leaps and bounds to put the capacity of the port into test. Courtesy to the introduction of containerization of bulk freight and the establishment of the dry cargo depot at Mojo, the traffic congestion and the demurrage cost as well as the delay in shipment would have been worse. This problem seeks a timely solution that goes to make the necessity of consolidating the Ethio-Djibouti relations more urgent and imperative than any time before.

This is the feeling that has been shared by many citizens of both nations for a long time. That, at least, has been the view of Abdul Osman, an old friend, a few years back when we both were taking advanced courses in Namur, Belgium. I was surprised to find out that a person from Djibouti could be fluent in Amharic, Oromiffa, French and of course in Somali languages. But when I learnt through time that he was born in Djibouti and bred in Dire Dawa, I needed no better explanation.

His feeling of double identity was deeply embedded in him. This made me feel bankrupt in the knowledge of the real relations between the people of the two nations that had transcended cultural, historical, linguistic and ethnic barriers. We discussed the vital roles played by the Ethio-Djibouti Railway project in the contributions it made to both countries to be what they are now.

From the Ethiopian side, stations like Aisha, Dewelle, Dire Dawa, Hurso, Yerrer Gofa and most of all Adama towns are nothing but the by-products of the railway line. I am fully aware of the fact that even if the social identity and historical bond matters a lot in the decision of people’s future destiny, the role of political leaders of the countries is essential to further tighten the bond by their positive and constructive thinking or detrimental to the hitherto bond by their lack of it.

Political leaders who are committed to stand for the good of their people can have the will to sit and discuss face-to-face how to solve the steps necessary to realise the African Union dreams.

This far-reaching strategic commitment could spill over to the Ethio-Eritrean relations. Talks can start on how to involve the concerned parties and the scholars of the concerned nations to find ways and means of consolidating their relations without jeopardizing the interests of the people of the respective countries.

My repeated arguments forwarded for debate focus on the basic idea of interdependence and its necessity for sustainable development in any field. Take the case of the Ethio-Djibouti relationship, for instance. Ethiopia’s provision of drinking water and electric power to the people of Djibouti is a manifestation of positive contribution for the sustenance of the lives of Djiboutians.

Both countries can benefit from the marine life in the Red Sea and the beaches of Djibouti to be converted into international tourist resorts. The recent visit of Ethiopian political leaders has been an opportunistic moment to learn more about the Somali ethnic groups and other Ethiopians living in Djibouti.

We only wish for the same visit of Ethiopian officials to Asmara and create political conducive situations to go back to improving political relations between leaders so that the atmosphere may be ripe for further considerations of some political reunion, be it in the form of confederation or linkages of that nature. Ethiopia may not only expend her power transmission line from Tekeze Dam and link Asmara and Assab to the new railway infrastructure, but also expedite the tangible realisation of the African Union.

But interdependence does not mean foregoing the interest of the people of the two countries. In this case, Ethiopia’s interest in the equitable benefits of the optimum services of the Port in the sharing of costs as well as ensuring shared benefits should be studied and realised in the interests of both countries and their respective citizens. The best models can be reached after detailed studies by experts in the field.


(Source: Addis Fortune)


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