Thousands cheered in Addis Ababa Sunday as the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea embraced at a concert celebrating a peace deal between the two former mortal foes.
“Hate, discrimination, and conspiracy is now over,” Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told Ethiopians as he was close to tears. “We are ready to move forward with you as one. No one can steal the love we have regained now.”
“Forgiveness frees the consciousness. When we say we have reconciled, we mean we have chosen a path of forgiveness and love,” Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.
Ahmed was in Eritrea last week, a month after announcing Ethiopia was finally accepting the peace treaty it signed with Eritrea in 2000, ending two years of war. The Eritreans immediately followed.
Both countries have agreed to reopen shuttered embassies, resume flights and build ports.
Under the peace agreement, Ethiopia will hand over disputed border regions to Eritrea.
Eritrea was part of Ethiopia until it broke away and declared independence in 1993.
Few people outside its borders know much about Eritrea – located in the Horn of Africa along the Red Sea – except that it has long been under U.N. sanctions because of its alleged support of extremists. Its reclusive government has been accused of human rights violations and thousands of Eritreans have fled the country to escape poverty and avoid compulsory military service.
Leaders of both Ethiopia and Eritrea hope the peace deal will lead to more economic development.