After 20 years of conflict, Eritrea and Ethiopia have signed a peace agreement, effectively ending the African cold war. On Sunday, July 8th Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki met in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, to announce official peace between the two countries.
“There is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea,” said Abiy Ahmed. “Instead, we have built a bridge of love.”
Eritrea was originally part of Ethiopia, gaining its independence in 1991. But years of disagreements over borders — particularly over who owned the town of Badme — led to violence and a declaration of war in 1998. For the next two years, both countries amassed large military forces and sustained an estimated 70,000 casualties.
The war resulted in closed phone connections, closed borders, and no flights between the countries —akin to the relations between North and South Korea. Eritrea issued forced military service for most citizens, while Ethiopia dedicated federal funding to border security and surveillance a move highly criticized by citizens, as it took money away from development and resources in Ethiopia.
In 2000, a peace agreement was created to end conflict, but both countries were dissatisfied and argued over details of the settlement. Now, leaders are saying both sides are finally agreeing to put hostilities aside and have a relationship again.
The move means that embassies will reopen in both countries, and people will be able to move cross border again. It also means families who were separated during the conflict — and who have been unable to contact each other due to the prohibition of cross-country communication — will finally be able to reconnect.
It is a historic move in international relations.