Last December, Eritrea suspended its membership in the African Union (AU).  This was in response to the imposition of UN sanctions for arms embargo violations in Somalia and for keeping troops on Djibouti territory after its ‘invasion’ a few years ago.

The  AU summit in Uganda, scheduled long ago, has naturally put Somalia high on its agenda.  Unexpectedly, Eritrea showed up at the meeting.  Since this has led to high level personal contacts by Eritrean officials with both Africans and outside observers, it is clearly a step toward a return by Eritrea to the international community.

The significance is in their presence, even if they say nothing of particular interest.  It seems unquestionable to me that one purpose of attending the meeting is to reestablish personal connections that can be followed up privately.

Maybe we are seeing a return to the smart diplomacy that Isaias practiced so effectively for many years. It may be his decision to do this, or he may be responding to pressure from a frustrated and restive inner circle that is chafing at the international isolation that the UN sanctions made inescapably clear.

I hope both Africans and others will respond positively to such gestures, to encourage the process to continue.