Afwerki’s visit, the third in two years, comes on the back of ongoing talks aimed at establishing stronger ties between the neighbors who were at war from 1998 to 2018 when both countries declared the conflict officially over.
According to Eritrea’s Information ministry, Afwerki was invited by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for “extensive consultations on further enhancement of bilateral ties as well as the consolidation of regional cooperation”.
Afwerki was received in the south-western Oromo city of Jimma by Ahmed on Monday. The two toured multiple establishments, including the public university in Jimma and a coffee plantation.
On Tuesday, Afwerki was at the site of the ongoing Koysha Hydroelectric Dam, a project expected to produce 2,200 megawatts of electricity when completed. Ethiopia already exports electricity to Djibouti and Sudan.
While receiving international praise, including a Nobel Peace Prize, for his handling of the peace process with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s Ahmed is criticized by some in his country for allowing Eritrea to have its way. Recently, a former Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin, accused Ahmed of letting Afwerki “rape Ethiopia”.
A painful reconciliation
The Ethiopian-Eritrean war started in 1998 over a border dispute. It cost either country hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives before final peace efforts were crystallized in 2018.
But the enmity between Ethiopians and Eritreans dates back to the early 20th century when Italy tried to invade Ethiopia with complementary infantries of Eritrean soldiers. The Italo-Ethiopian wars fostered a gulf between the neighboring countries which the border dispute of 1998 only awoke.
The war might have ended in 2000 but peace and stability have taken two decades. In 2018, Afwerki visited Ethiopia, the first visit by an Eritrean leader since 1998, thus laying the foundation for a better relationship.
Prime Minister Ahmed has also made a number of trips to Eritrea’s capital Asmara since he came into office.