In a surprise turn of events this weeks, the government in Asmara is reported to have closed down it borders with Ethiopia, adjoining the Tigray Regional State, from the side of Eritrea with no official explanation yet offered by both countries.
On the side of Ethiopia, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Office of the Prime Minister declined to give explanations as to what is unfolding in the area.
In this regard, the Ministry through its spokesperson, Meles Alem, told The Reporter that “it has no information regarding the boarder closure.”
In addition to this, the Prime Minister Press Secretariat, on its behalf, has also declined to comment saying “the mandate rests on the ministry.”
However, according to a number of sources from Tigray Regional State, as of Wednesday, December 26, 2018, the Eritrean government closed the border crossing at Zalambesssa followed by another closure at Rama, later on Thursday.
“We were not informed by the federal government in advance,” Daniel Mekonnen, deputy head from Tigray Urban Development, Trade & Industry Bureau, told The Reporter.
“Since the closure of the border, no one from the Ethiopian side is allowed to enter Eritrea and similarly, the Eritrean government is not giving permits to its citizens to cross the border to Ethiopia,” he said.
According to Daniel, Ethiopian traders who went to Eritrea planning to come back were prohibited from crossing.
It is to be recalled that the normalization of the relationship between the two countries and the opening of the borders took place in September 2018.
Since then, thousands have flooded on both sides. Particularly, a number of reports indicate that a significant number of Eritreans were coming to Ethiopia, where some were seeking asylum.
In this regard, according to a report update from UN High Commissioner for Refugees indicated that the reopening of the border has resulted in an increase in number of people arriving from Eritrea. The average daily rate of arrivals has increased from 53 to approximately 390 individuals.
For instance, since September 2018, more than 27,500 Eritreans were registered at the Endabaguna Reception Centre and Afar region. From this, 90 percent of the new arrivals are women, children and unaccompanied minors.
In addition to the influx of people, business activities along the borders of the two countries were also flourishing.
In fact a group of experts and officials from both federal and regional government studied the activities and submitted a final report to Workneh Gebeyhu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Daniel told The Reporter.
“The report which explores, among other things, issues on how to formalize the trade activities was also communicated with the Eritrean counterpart,” he said.
Regardless, for months on people have been traveling from Ethiopia to Eritrea and the vise versa freely.
Last week, Sebhat Ephrem, Minister of Energy & Mines for Eritrea and former Minister of Defense, was reportedly shot by an assailant in Asmera.
No official update, except confirmation from Eritrean ambassador to Japan, was given by the Eritrean government regarding the Sebhat’s attack and his current condition.
Regarding the development at the border, Yemaneh G/Meskel, Information Minister of Eritrea, did not respond to The Reporter’s queries as of press time.
Contributed by Dawit Endeshaw and Brook Abdu