Kenya sees the growing rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea as a step “closer to the dream of lasting peace” in the region.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba on Friday said the decision by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean leader Isias Afwerki to reopen diplomatic channels means the region has one less problem to deal with.
"We congratulate the leadership and the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea for the historic peace and friendship agreement signed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki on 9 July,” he said referring to the formal name of the peace deal.
“This is a big victory for all Ethiopians, for all Eritreans, for all of us the neighbours, indeed for all of Africa.”
At war for the last two decades, Ethiopia and Eritrea dramatically ended one of Africa’s longest conflicts with a declaration by both sides to commit to peace.
Things moved very fast.
After Premier Abiy made the first state visit to Asmara, President Afwerki toured Addis Ababa this week with both events punctuated with excited street celebrations by locals.
The two sides have since restored direct phone contacts between them, reopened embassies in each other’s capitals and Ethiopian Airlines resumed direct flights between Addis and Asmara.
Eritrea announced on Wednesday it will withdraw troops stationed along the disputed border between them.
Kenya feels these events mark a turnaround and could enable both countries and the Horn of Africa to redirect resources to development instead of buying arms, for example.
Mr Namwamba said the warm reception of Prime Minister Ahmed by ordinary Eritreans in Asmara and the enthusiastic welcome of President Afwerki in the streets of Addis Ababa is itself an indication that the ordinary citizens have always supported normalised relations.
Once a part of Ethiopia, Eritrea seceded in 1993 following civil war.
But the new country re-entered war with Ethiopia in 1998 over the boundary, violence that claimed more than 80,000 people (some sources indicate a higher death toll).
Despite the normalised relations, the two countries still have to address certain issues.
For example, Eritrea is still under an arms embargo by the UN Security Council.
Ethiopia will also have to make good its promise to cede Badme town to Eritrea.
It is Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the 2002 findings of a boundary commission established under the Algiers Accord the two had signed in 2000 that caused the continued bad blood.
“It is a giant step that moves us closer to the dream of lasting peace, stability and shared prosperity in the horn of Africa region.
“What must be done must be done to sustain this momentum and spread it all round, all the way to Juba and beyond,” Mr Namwamba said.
With the long conflict addressed, stronger economies like Ethiopia and Kenya could focus their efforts for development and addressing security issues.
South Sudan and Somalia are the countries in the region still facing violence.