Ethiopian, Eritrean leaders at concert for diplomatic thaw

At least 25,000 Ethiopians are at a concert where new, reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's President Isaias Afweki are expected to celebrate the new friendship between their neighboring countries.

The concert on Sunday highlights the end of years of hostility between the two arch-foes in East Africa, who fought a bloody border war from 1998 to 2000. The antagonism ended last month when Ethiopia accepted a peace deal originally signed in 2000.

Eritrea's longtime leader arrived in Ethiopia on Saturday, his first visit in 22 years. Isaias is reciprocating the Ethiopian leader's trip to Eritrea last Sunday. Isaias was greeted by Ethiopia's Abiy in a red carpet welcome. People danced at the airport when Isaias arrived and Addis Ababa residents lined main streets to see Isaias' motorcade.

Near the airport, some residents chanted songs criticizing the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, which used to be Ethiopian ruling coalition's strongest political party until Abiy came to power at the beginning of April.

The thaw with Eritrea began when the 42-year-old Abiy announced in June that Ethiopia would fully accept the 2000 peace deal that ended the two-year border war which killed tens of thousands and separated families. The decision, which hands some key disputed border areas to Eritrea, was Abiy's boldest move yet in a wave of reforms in which he aims to end anti-government protests in Africa's second most populous country, which has 100 million people.

The of the state of war between the two countries has been praised by the United States and the United Nations The U.N. Security Council called it a "historic and significant development with far-reaching positive consequences for the Horn of Africa and beyond."

The Eritrean leader is expected to re-open his country's embassy in Addis on Monday. On Saturday Isaias visited an Ethiopian industrial park in southern Ethiopia.

Tiny Eritrea, with a population of about 5 million, is located on one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. It has been ruled by Isaias since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after years of rebel warfare. In recent years, many Eritreans have fled to Europe, Israel and African nations to avoid military conscription and what human rights groups say is harsh rule.


Follow Africa news at