Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki put animosity aside

This week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki appeared on state television for the first time, after several months of rapprochement between the two countries. Abiy said that they would…

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki put animosity aside

This week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki appeared on state television for the first time, after several months of rapprochement between the two countries.

Abiy said that they would work together to restore border and airspace links, and that he and Isaias would also bury their enemies.

Both leaders shook hands and saluted on the TV set. Abiy then apologized to Isaias for Ethiopians supporting Eritrean rebels, including a legendary military commander who died in a plane crash, saying: “We will all never forget what we have done to you.”

“(The ambassador of the country that he fought for) was shot in his house and we never even know that people were sick of his mistake,” Abiy said. “We will embrace with a friendly face our dead, and we will bury you.”

This is a photo of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (R) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) shaking hands after they appeared live on Ethiopian state TV for the first time following their nations’ ‘strategic partnership’ by laying a wreath to mark the passing of two soldiers killed in a plane crash, near the town of Badme, Eritrea, on May 13, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The gesture, as well as some of the more mundane details of their respective styles of governance, are intended to reaffirm the grandiose boasts both sides made in May, when their leaders first declared their mutual pursuit of peace.

“We have stopped the war,” Isaias said on television, while having a traditional meal at the residence of Eritrea’s ambassador to France. “And let’s go ahead with peace.”

On Tuesday, Abiy re-created his full military motorcade with military forces, at the beginning of the inauguration of a vocational training school.

Perhaps seeing the ease with which their enemies could bury the hatchet after so many months of “enemy” chants, protests and parades, Ethiopians have taken the return of hostilities to a new level of reverence.

“Abiy had made peace with Eritrea, so he had to say this,” a 22-year-old protester told AFP. “If we see this (on the news), we will be sad.”

“I don’t think it (doing harm to somebody) is such a big deal,” said Prime Minister Abiy’s spokeswoman, Shimeles Kemal. “It is not anything extraordinary. These are things we’ve seen everywhere.”

Blaming his gestures on the speeding pace of diplomacy, Lemma Megersa — the fiery, outspoken president of the unrecognized Ogaden National Liberation Front — told Newsweek that her group “doesn’t believe in letting a man bury his enemy.”

According to a statement obtained by local media this weekend, Ethiopian authorities have arrested those responsible for the rebel chants:

“This is out of fear of increased support (for the rebel group) from Abiy’s administration,” a government official told the Oromia Monitor.

Read the full story at The Atlantic.

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