Updated: March 4, 2021
Many who had watched the two East African neighbors fight for more than two decades are still in disbelief. Things went on so fast and so sudden that observers seem to believe the development should be carefully watched.
On July 9, 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations, reopen embassies in Addis Ababa and Asmara, and resume flights between the two countries.
Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a thirty-year struggle. The conflict left at least 80 thousand people dead and a heavily militarized border. The United Nations has imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, citing its border disputes with neighboring countries.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and the Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, both said they hoped peace had finally returned.
As reported by The New Yorker, “The timing, for Ethiopians and Eritreans, is also bittersweet: the nations had cut off trade and communications for so long—the border separating the two nations, where there were periodic clashes, is heavily militarized—that families and friends who had been forced to live apart didn’t seem to know what to do with the dizzying news. And, around the world, Eritreans who had left their homes to escape the human-rights abuses that their government has inflicted on its people in the name of national preservation wondered: Would it now be safe to return?”.
The New Yorker reported as the breadth of abuses by the Eritrean government is vast, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled since the mid-nineteen-nineties.
So brutal were the human rights violations that “in late 2015, the country’s national soccer team traveled to Botswana for a World Cup qualifying match. It lost the afternoon game. That night, the entire team defected. It was the fourth time the national team had defected in eight years. Nearly all of the players had done stints in the country’s compulsory national service—military duty that involves brutal training camps and often harsh postings in remote areas, or assigned jobs in service and civil work. All of the positions are minimally paid and indefinite,” The New Yorker said.
Since the night they sought asylum from Botswana’s government, three years ago, the soccer players have been living at a refugee camp outside of a small city called Francistown, the newspaper reported.
Many now wonder whether peace between both countries would last.
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