Ethiopia’s lifeline, the Ethio-Djibouti line, remains closed since Saturday July 24, 2021 with various vehicles and drivers stranded on the route, The Reporter has confirmed.
Drivers stranded on the route around Dire Dawa said that they could not move to either side, following a conflict on the borderline between the Afar and Somali regions, where the Ethio-Djibouti route passes through.
They said that many vehicles carrying fuel and containers have been parked by the roadside, while they are sleeping either inside the vehicles, outside by the roadside, or some in hotels.
Because of the deployment of federal forces, the drivers now hope that the roads would soon be opened allowing transportation along the route.
Apart from the road, the railway linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti had also been blocked by protesters who demonstrated against attacks on civilians by Afar opposition forces who are allegedly working with the TPLF.
Witnesses from the area said that the raillines were looted and set ablaze by angry protesters. This, the witnesses say, could have damaged the electric line of the USD four billion railway.
The Ethiopian government covered 30 percent of the cost for the project, taking the rest from the Chinese Exim Bank.
Shortly, Ethio-Djibouti Railway was established in April 2017, based on an agreement signed on December 16, 2016, between Ethiopia and Djibouti, with a capital of USD 500 million. Augmenting the Ethio-Djibouti land line, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway had reportedly transported a total of 3.45 million tons of import and export commodities and goods over the last three years. The Reporter’s efforts to reach the Railways CEO, Tilahun Sarka, were not fruitful.
Transporting almost 85 percent of the country’s import and export trade, the Ethio-Djibouti route is often referred to as the lifeline for the country’s economy. Because of the need to diversify its port services to other neighboring countries, Ethiopia owns 19 percent of shares in the Berbera Port development and it has finalized deals to use the Port of Sudan and Kenya’s Mombasa port.
Djibouti has also expanded its Doraleh Port facilities very recently to accommodate the growing demands of the Ethiopian market.
Indicating that the port was mainly meant for the market in Ethiopia, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) warned in March 2018 “If trade from Ethiopia dries up, ships will no longer be queuing at sea for their turn to dock at these ports. This is significant because there are two separate situations that threaten the trading relationship between Ethiopia and Djibouti. The first is the brewing political crisis in Ethiopia.”
But, if Ethiopia remains stable and continues to grow, its economy was predicted to be able to accommodate all ports around it.
Such security situations had repeatedly closed the route, hindering the transportation of goods between Djibouti and Ethiopia. And when the roads would be opened remains unknown. The Reporter’s repeated calls to the administrations in Afar and Somali regions were not replied to.