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Eritrea – Ethiopia: A string of near chances to fully normalise relations

By Samuel Getachew
Posted on Thursday, 3 June 2021 17:51

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

Ethiopia and Eritrea's tumultuous relationship has a string of missed opportunities to fully normalise relations, since the time of Italy's colonisation.

Born in Ethiopia to an Eritrean father and Ethiopian mother, Filmon Haftay met his family in Asmara almost three years ago.

This came about after the stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea came to a sudden end, ending a bloody conflict between the two countries and culminating in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Haftay, and thousands of others, finally reunited with their loved ones.

“That was one of the best days of my life. I re-connected with many of my family members, many of the young ones I did not know and for the first time and I have since kept in touch with many of them”, the 41-year old father of three tells The Africa Report.

With the tense relationship between the federal government of Ethiopia and Tigray’s regional government turning into a full-scale war (involving Eritrean troops on the side of the Ethiopian National Defense Force), the conflict has left thousands dead and countless Ethiopians are either internally displaced in their own country or destitute refugees in Sudan.

Three years ago, there was talk of normalisation of the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea, for borders to remain open and enabling citizens of the two countries to travel freely but this did not materialise.

“I grew up in [the] midst of conflicts, between Ethiopia and Eritrea and now with the current conflict, [I did not think that] my own children and their generation would be experiencing the same now,” Haftey says as he reflects on the conflict that has seen the United States propose sanctions against both countries.