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Kenya and Ethiopia: A cross-border initiative to advance peace and development

by Ambassador Amina Mohamed & Dr Tedros Adhanom
Tuesday, 5 January 2016 10:33 GMT

Ambassador Amina Mohamed (right) and Dr Tedros Adhanom (left) sign an MOU in Moyale, Kenya. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn look on, December 7, 2015. CREDIT: IGAD

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia

The Horn of Africa is blessed with vast wealth of natural and human resources, but it is also plagued by a series of historical, socio-political, economic and climatic challenges.  Over time, these challenges have left sovereign border regions and those areas far flung from regional and national capitals in the throes of chronic instability and vulnerability.

Viewed from a regional perspective, the spill-over effects of conflict from neighbouring countries have a wide impact on peace and stability. But on the positive side, some of the national and regional peace and development initiatives suggest ways of resolving or at least mitigating conflicts.

Driven by the determination to change the negative  narrative, political leaders from Kenya and Ethiopia have given unequivocal support to technical teams from the United Nations country teams in Ethiopia and Kenya and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African bloc supporting regional peace efforts, to find sustainable answers.

Dedicated staff of both governments, IGAD and the U.N. family worked tirelessly to ensure that the maximum technical support was availed to both county and regional governments to develop a concise and articulate multi-year response plan. 

On a visit to the Horn of Africa in October last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Now is a crucial moment to support efforts to end the cycles of conflict and poverty, and move from fragility to sustainability. The United Nations is joining with other global and regional leaders to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach towards peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa."   

Out of this came the inauguration in 2015 of the "Cross Border Integrated Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socioeconomic Transformation" between Marsabit County of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Borana Zone. 

On Dec. 7, 2015, the border town of Moyale was buzzing with expectation as local, national, regional, continental and international high level guests arrived to witness the historic signing of the Memorandum of the Understanding between the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn were both present to launch the integrated cross-border programme.

“My government is committed to address historical marginalisation of this region and steer it from poverty and support cross-border programmes for sustainable peace,” the Ethiopian prime minister said.

President Kenyatta hoped that the new initiative would help transform the region. “The programme will see Moyale being turned into the Dubai of Africa,” he said.

As the sun set, as vehicles and aircraft drove and flew away into the evening sky, the women, men, girls and boys in Marsabit County and Borana Zone were left to reflect on the events of the unforgettable day. 

For the more than 26 ethnic groups living in the region, the following day may have been about the daily business of surviving on the edge, but it also brought about a new dawn: hope for better days.

Ambassador Amina Mohamed is Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary. Dr Tedros Adhanom is Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.