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The President's Take

Some Good News Amid the Bad

Over the summer several long-lasting conflicts have become more lethal. In his introduction to the July/August 2018 edition of CrisisWatch, our President Rob Malley welcomes the exception – the official end to the state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

It is summertime for many of our readers, so this month I will not write about the revolting but predictable (more revolting because so predictable) news that the Syrian regime is now belatedly informing hundreds of families that their loved ones died in jail. Nor will I say much about the perilous escalation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza – again, all the more distressing because it was so foreseeable and because nobody has done anything to address the now decade-old roots of this political and humanitarian crisis. Nor will I dwell on the hundreds killed in continued violence involving herders and farmers in Nigeria, the deadly clashes in Cameroon between government forces and separatist Anglophones, or even the NATO summit and the subsequent meeting in Helsinki between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which cast yet another shadow over traditional Western alliances.

Instead, I will focus on a surprising good news story out of Africa: the breakthrough between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with the first high-level exchange of visits in two decades that led to the official end of the 1998-2000 war and allowed long-separated citizens of the two countries to see and talk to each other. The event carries three principal lessons. First, even a conflict as old and entrenched as this one can be resolved through acts of statesmanship. Secondly, outside actors can lend an important hand – in this instance, in the form of the UAE’s welcome involvement (a lesson one can only hope Abu Dhabi will now extend to its own costly spat with Somalia). And thirdly, domestic and foreign policies are often closely interconnected, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s attempts at internal reform and external change being mutually reinforcing.

For information and analysis on all those crises about which I chose not to write, along with many more, turn to CrisisWatch, which provides the news, grim and otherwise, regardless of season.