Spokesperson of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, Meles Alem, announced that the first Eritrean delegation is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa this week [Tuesday] for the first time in two decades after surprising gestures by both sides aimed at ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
The foreign ministry, however, gives no details on the expected visit.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April, made a surprising pledge this month to honour all the terms of the peace deal that ended the conflict with Eritrea.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki raised hopes of a breakthrough last week by describing the unconditional pledge by PM Abiy to honour the boundary commission’s rulings as “positive signals”.
To strengthen PM Abiy’s hand in the peace overtures, President Isaias announced he would send a delegation to “gauge current developments directly and in-depth” and plan future steps.
There are growing concerns of a political backlash against PM Abiy following his sweeping reform plans and peace overture to Eritrea from within the ranks of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
The Eritrean president was particularly concerned of the coalition member Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that stands to lose from the ongoing reforms and a peace deal with Eritrea.
The group issued a statement last week denouncing PM Abiy for accepting the peace deal unconditionally.
“The TPLF clique and other vultures are dumbfounded by the ongoing changes. And, as they know full well that their game has come to an end, they will not refrain from concocting various machinations to obstruct any change and to mollify their wayward appetite.
One of the worn-out tricks that they will try to wield to prolong their dwindling power and to impede positive change is to work for the perpetuation of tension with Eritrea,” said President Isaias during his martyrs day speech.
On Saturday, at a huge rally in Addis Ababa, an explosion that may have been intended to kill PM Abiy left two dead and 156 people injured, five of them critically.
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody border war in 1998-2000 that killed more than 20,000 Eritreans and more than 100,000 Ethiopian soldiers.