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President Afwerki Pushes for Regional Cooperation in the Horn of Africa

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has been in the limelight ever since the onset of the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, especially his involvement in the crisis.

Many mainstream media have portrayed Eritrea’s involvement in the conflict in a rather negative way, stating that it is helping the Ethiopian government to undermine the security of the people of the region. However, many have failed to understand the real intentions of Eritrea in Ethiopia in particular, and the horn of Africa region at large. The country led by President Isaias Afwerki, which has over the years earned a reputation as perhaps Africa’s most isolated state, ended a 20-year cold war with its neighbour Ethiopia after signing a peace accord in July 2018 championed by the young vibrant Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed. This simple act that took the past Ethiopian regime like forever to handle, has set a pace for the two countries to forge ahead in bilateral ties, something that has been lacking for a while now. This therefore shows that president Afwerki’s intentions for the Horn of Africa region has been misjudged and many are using the Tigrayan crisis to paint him in the negative light.

Over the years, President Isaias Afwerki’s scorn for multifaceted forums like the African Union, and his edgy relations with many governments in the region, have resulted to Eritrea being termed “North Korea of Africa.” However, his invitation early last year for its neighbours Ethiopia and Somalia to discuss a new regional bloc echoes an important factor in Eritrea’s foreign policy. The small east African state is making efforts to preserve its independence in a fast-evolving geopolitical environment. Thus Isaias’ proposal to deepen integration between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia referred to as the "Cushitic Alliance", is an extension of efforts he championed in the 1990s to institutionally lead alliances between governments with a similar political outlook. Just like in the era of the “Greater Horn,” Asmara appears to be proposing new regional norms and understandings of peace and security as well as infrastructure ties to forge a web of partnerships among the participating states. The push for this regional integration by President Afwerki is a clear illustration of a Pan africanist leader, who has understood that regional and continental integration is vital towards bringing a commendable political, social and most importantly economic trajectory in Africa.

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