PICS: Champagne as historic commercial flight links Ethiopia and Eritrea

2018-07-18 18:00
Cabin crew of Ethiopian Airlines handing out roses on flight from Addis Ababa to Asmara. (Maheder Haileselassie Tadese / AFP)

Cabin crew of Ethiopian Airlines handing out roses on flight from Addis Ababa to Asmara. (Maheder Haileselassie Tadese / AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ethiopia and Eritrea on Wednesday resumed commercial airline flights for the first time in two decades, marking the latest phase in a whirlwind peace process between the former foes.

There was singing and cheering onboard Ethiopian Airlines flight 312 after it touched down in the Eritrean capital Asmara following a one-and-a-half hour flight from Addis Ababa.

The flight is the latest sign of a surprise thaw between the neighbouring countries that began just six weeks ago.

"I'm super excited. You have no idea," said Izana Abraham, an Eritrean who was born in Addis Ababa - a fact that saw him deported from his home country during a bloody two year war between 1998 and 2000. "This is history in the making."

See images below

Izana, 33, was going to visit his father. The two had been separated ever since his deportation until finally meeting in Dubai last year.

The airline wrote on Twitter shortly after take-off that "the bird of peace has just flown to Asmara."

"This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea," the airline's chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.

Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.

"The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people," said Tewolde.

An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said Champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who toasted each other and posed for selfies during the flight.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER 

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Smiling flight attendants also handed out roses to passengers.

Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa's fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a daily return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara.

"With the demand we are witnessing, I think we're going to increase the frequency to twice a day, thrice a day and even more," said Tewolde.

He said the opening of Eritrean airspace to Ethiopian Airlines would also mean more efficient routes to the Middle East.

Among the passengers on the first flight was former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose shock resignation in February was the first step in a series of shake-ups in the politics of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

"I knew one day it would happen," Hailemariam said of the peace with Eritrea.

'A man in a hurry'

Hailemariam was succeeded in April by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a 42-year-old former army officer and cabinet minister described by analysts as a "man in an extreme hurry".

After announcing the liberalisation of parts of the Ethiopian economy and releasing jailed dissidents, Abiy last month declared his intention to make peace with Eritrea after two decades of frozen relations.

Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.

A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal conflict that lasted between 1998 and 2000, leaving 80 000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.

Abiy stunned observers with his announcement that he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation. However he has yet to announce a pull-out of troops.

He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.

The emotion-filled reunion has been welcomed by Ethiopians who share strong cultural ties with Eritreans and have been cut-off from friends and family on the other side during the long years of enmity.

On Monday Afwerki reopened Eritrea's embassy in Addis Ababa.

The rapprochement is expected to provide an economic boost to both nations, offering booming Ethiopia - which currently channels its trade through Djiboutian ports - access to Eritrean shores.

Amnesty International has said the new peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, one of the world's most isolated nations.

Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify repressive policies, including an indefinite national service programme the UN has likened to slavery.

Read more on:    abiy ahmed  |  isaias afwerki  |  ethiopia  |  eritrea  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
 

And the Paws24 and Hill's winners are ...

Find out who the winners of our Paws24 pet pics and Q&a competitions are...

 

Paws

Keep your family and pets safe from rabies
5 scientific benefits of owning a cat
Why we love cats
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.