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Eritrean border towns’ residents edge closer to normalcy

Filled with joy and unparalleled sense of freedom, residents, especially on the border towns such as Rama, Zalanbessa and Adigrate told The Reporter of their growing anxiety to restore their freedom of movement and normalcy of life which they have lost two decades ago to.

According to residents in Rama town separated by the Mereb River, told The Reporter that they began enjoying the relaxing wind of peace in the town immediately after the visit of Eritrean President, Isaias Afewerki last week even though there was no formal agreement yet to be issued by the two governments over the border crossing access.

The photograph image The Reporter has received from residents, since early last week show military officers on both sides of the border for the first-time look to soften their tight grip and even allow nearby residents to partially cross the border.

These residents also confirmed to The Reporter that besides the Ethiopian side military guards, they have also been surprised by the Eritrean border guards who had welcomed them while crossing and step-in to Eritrean soil for a short period.

“This (crossing the border and walking on Eritrean soil) has never been thought off over the past 20 years since the soldiers do not allow anyone to come closer to the border,” Haftom Te’um resident of Rama told The Reporter. He further explained that the border patrol was “extremely” tight.

“Let alone crossing the bridge (at Mereb River), even any movement near to it and taking photographs was impossible,” he explained, adding his excitement for having crossed the river for the first time and having walked on the other edge of the border before he returned home afterwards.

During the first two years when the deadly war broke-out, residents of Rama and the residents of Adi Tsadik on the other edge (in Eritrea) used to live in harmony crossing via Mereb River. However, the bridge, which used to serve the two, had been damaged completely during the two year fighting.

With assistance of the defunct United Nation Mission for Ethio-Eritrea (UNMEE) peace keeping mission, a new bridge was laid across the River.

Similarly, the other prominent town that has suffered from the war and border confrontations is Zalambessa town. The town was heavily damaged during the first two years of war. And after the war, the town still remained with the scars while its urban ship development and livelihood remained stagnant.

Like Rama town, the scene in the border began showing relative calm with the monitoring military patrols softened at the border crossings.

However, the night curfew in Zalambessa town still remains in place. Since the war, no movement has been allowed for residents after 6:00 PM except for ambulances and military vehicles.

Now, residents of the town Such as Muse Me’uz who talked to The Reporter on the phone “could not wait to the end of night time curfew and Zalanbessa freed from the nightmare that we have lived in.”

The Reporter has learnt that, though no formal announcement was made over the end of military confrontations on the border area and opening of the border, some residents of the town have already began renewing their business organization including market areas and hotel services anticipating the business in the town to revive again.

Meanwhile, other residents are anxiously waiting for the opening of the border to reunite with their loved ones.

Others from a nearby town in Tigray Regional State expressed their desire to travel and visit notable towns in Eritrea.

Among them, residents of Adwa town which is some 60 km out from Eritrea boarder began taking initiatives to hold people-to-people get together events with their counter-parts in the nearby Eritrean towns.

Assaye, who runs Enda Tour and Travel agency in Adwa town, told The Reporter that many residents in his town are pleased to travel to the Eritrean town of Adi Quala from Adwa.

He said that residents of Adwa who welcomed the recent peace deal by the leaders of the two countries are inspired to organize people-to-people get together event by their own initiative without waiting for a call from a governmental body which usually conducts such event.

Assaye did not indicate the time schedule they plan on the visit, since they need security clearances. But he believes that they will make it immediately as the two governments announce the commencement of public bus transportation.

The two governments are expected to announce the opening of their borders. The Eritrean government announced on Wednesday in taking the first steps by pulling its troops away from one of the military bases.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian airline resumed its first commercial flight to Asmara on the same day.