Eritrea’s border closure cripples key Ethiopia border town

Written by on May 15, 2019

From a busy business area to a quiet neighborhood in ruins,” the view of Samuel Getachew, an Ethiopian journalist describing the border town of Zalambessa in the northern Tigray region.

The town was one of the main areas (in September 2018) that benefited from the reopening of border crossings between Ethiopia and Eritrea following the peace deal of July 2018.

Samuel, who is with the privately-owned Reporter newspaper, is undertaking a tour of the country and observed that the area had been deserted in the wake of Eritrea’s unilateral closure of the border.

He quoted a business operator as bemoaning the closure for its adverse impact. “Since the re-closing of the border with Eritrea, business has been slow and this is how empty restaurants have become. “

“Added to that is, there is no regular electricity (in Zalambessa),” an unnamed waitress at a hotel in the town told him.

Towns on either side benefited when border crossings reopened as families moved to reunite. Businesses from Ethiopia had largely benefited from the border opening as they crossed with materials that were in hot demand in Asmara.

Conversely, Eritreans came into Ethiopia to escape political and economic conditions back home.

In September 2018, two border points were opened in a ceremony that saw Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed join citizens for the official reopenings.

Another border point the Humera-Omhager was opened months later but all three points have been shut on the Eritrean side. The government has not explained why the move and Ethiopia says it had not been communicated to prior to the closures.

Families were reunited in the wake of the peace deal. Both countries have since restored all friendly ties after the Asmara deal. The two leaders have visited each other a number of times over the almost one-year period.


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