By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday said his country has no intention of invading any nation, referring to Eritrea, a comment seeking to douse concerns that he might use force to secure access to a sea port.
Eritrea, which secured independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a lengthy civil war, described recent commentary over the Red Sea as “excessive” and urged concerned parties not be provoked, without directly addressing Abiy’s comments.
After the 1993 Independence, relations between both countries were initially friendly.
However, disagreements about where the newly created international border should be caused relations to deteriorate significantly, eventually leading to full scale war.
Abiy had on Oct. 13 told state media that Ethiopia will assert what he called right to access the Red Sea as much as possible through peaceful means, raising tensions with regional governments and possibility of a fresh conflict in the Horn of Africa.
Both countries had moved troops closer to their shared border, according to diplomats and humanitarian workers with knowledge of the movements, raising concerns of another conflict in a region already plagued by violence.
“Ethiopia has never invaded any country and now Ethiopia has no intention to invade any country,” Abiy told thousands of soldiers gathered in the capital Addis Ababa to celebrate the national army on Thursday.
Abiy said Ethiopia would not pursue its interests “through force”, and that “it wouldn’t pull the trigger on its fellow brothers.”
Earlier, Eritrea deployed troops in the town of Bure, along the border with Ethiopia’s Afar region, while Ethiopia moved troops towards that same border, two diplomats and one humanitarian worker said.
Abiy won a Nobel peace prize in 2019 for his peacemaking efforts which ended two decades of hostility with Eritrea.
Eritrea then fought alongside Ethiopia in the war against regional forces from Tigray, but relations soured once again after Asmara was excluded from the peace talks that ended that conflict in November, and because some of its troops remain in Tigray.
“It’s an open secret that relations between Addis Ababa and Asmara have grown ever frostier over the past year,” said Alan Boswell, project director, Horn of Africa, at the International Crisis Group.
“There are major concerns around the region that the relationship could deteriorate further and risk outright hostility.”