Dawhan (Ethiopia) (AFP) – When Zaid Aregawi learned that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, her first thought was of her brother Alem, who is languishing in jail across the border in Eritrea.
He crossed over five months ago carrying wood for an Eritrean businessman — exactly the kind of trade that people in the border region hoped would flourish after Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace deal last year.
But Eritrean soldiers arrested Alem Aregawi without explanation, making him one of scores of Ethiopians who officials say have recently been taken into custody by Eritrean security forces.
For Ethiopians like Zaid Aregawi, the detentions are the most troubling sign that the peace deal — the main reason Abiy was awarded his Nobel — has yet to be fully realised.
“If there is no free movement from both sides, what is the point of the peace deal?” she asked in an interview with AFP. “They say there is peace, however we have got big problems along the border.”
Abiy’s attention is currently consumed by ethnic and religious clashes that broke out last week in the capital Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s Oromia region, leaving nearly 70 dead and highlighting divisions within his ethnic Oromo support base.
Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometres north, frustration with his Eritrea deal is mounting in cities and towns nestled among the steep escarpments of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region — the area most affected by the 1998-2000 border war and the long, bitter stalemate that followed.
Residents of Ethiopia’s northernmost villages complain of a lack of progress on demarcating the two countries’ shared 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) border.
Eritrean refugees — who still cross into Ethiopia by the hundreds each day, according to the United Nations — note that peace has not moderated the behaviour of Isaias, widely considered one of the world’s most repressive leaders.
And nearly everyone laments that bilateral relations hinge on meetings between Abiy and Isaias, with little input from people on the ground. (Source: AFP)