The world is still enamored with the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the groundbreaking peace deals he has so far made with all of Ethiopia’s traditional rivals including their longtime archenemy Eritrea.

Despite the recent upheaval in the Somali region that led to the ouster of the regional President Abdi Illey and his eventual imprisonment, Dr Abiy has managed to bring the situation under control and made peace with Ginbot 7 and ONLF rebel groups.

Rally where PM Abiy survived a grenade attack

Despite these challenges, the Ethiopian Prime Minister also notched another right of passage for African leaders, he has survived his second assassination attempt, the first a bomb and the second the marching of elite troops to his office

In the much reported whirlwind of activities by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, perhaps the most significant was the peace deal with Eritrea and Isaias Afwerki. This was the ultimate test of the new untested Prime Minister and how effective his charm offensive would work on the weary
Afwerki. It worked!

It worked! Prime Minister of Ethiopia with President of Eritrea Afwerki

The world gasped as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed achieved victory after incredible victory and rubbed shoulders with regional and world leaders.

He is not done delivering, Prime Minister Abiy took another rare step and appointed 50 percent women to his new cabinet. And two days later Rwanda’s Kigame followed suit and changed his cabinet composition and appointed 50 percent female ministers.

The honeymoon continues for now but long after the cameras are off and the euphoria of what Ethiopian termed as “their miracle” wears off, Dr Abiy Ahmed will have to deliver on all of those messages of hope. Hope will need to be translated to material and economic well-being. This is the hard part.

Somali President embraces Ethiopian Prime Minister in Mogadishu in June 2018

Under the skin, the Ethiopian Minister Abiy is driven by a singular and almost primal need to get his 100 million people access to proper ports to fuel the growth he envisions for his people. Not democracy and bringing a renaissance to East Africa. This is where both Somalia and Eritrea factored in his calculus of success.

Getting concession to Somalia’s ports was half of the day’s work for Prime Minister Abiy. The Somali President Mohamed Abdillahi Farmajo was not a challenge and readily conceded three ports in Somalia and possibly threw in one out of his reach in Somaliland.

Then there is Afwerki. This is not Farmajo, in fact he just happens to be one of Africa’s most brutal dictators and his nation has been called Africa’s North Korea.

Afwerki has run Eritrea since 1993 with an iron fist and has a track record of severe human rights violations and Amnesty International’s latest report about Eritrea includes an entire section about forced labor and slavery.

Eritrea was also sanctioned in 2009 by the United Nations Security Council for providing weapons to Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia.

Another trait that makes Afwerki an even more dangerous dictator is his mercurial personality that borders on unstable. It has been said that the slightest infraction. An example of his unpredictability is when he canceled the 5.4 million dollar World Bank-funded  Cultural Assets Rehabilitation Project (CARP), simply because proper homage was not paid to his patronage of the book “Asmara: Africa’s Secret Modernist City”.

This is the wolf that has been unleashed by Prime Minister Abiy and presented as an African elder statesman and peacemaker and 
is seems to be king full advantage of Abiy’s political naivete.

What has Ethiopia gained so far from deals with Eritrea? How long will new affection between Isaias, Abiyi, and Farmajo continue, given the insecurity in Somalia, political upheavals within Ethiopia’s ethnic groups, and Afwerki’s unpredictable personality?

Ethiopia’s cross-border trade should be as between two sovereign nations and not as local on the reasoning that “we are one people and don’t need borders.” It was a similar fuzzy sentiment that ignited the war of 1998 and 2000 and Afwerki has not changed, in fact, he became less stable.

Regional allies like Djibouti and Somaliland continue to vigilantly observe the developments in Ethiopia provided that 70% of their imports go through Djibouti and Berbera Port maintains 30% of Ethiopia’s imports according to the new trade MoU between Somaliland and Ethiopia. Somaliland and DP World gave the Ethiopians a 19% stake in Berbera Port.