Adi Quala, Eritrea and Rama, Ethiopia – Teklehaimanot Tesfazigi is 103 years old and has witnessed many stages of Eritrea, from the Italian colonial period to the British administration, which ended in 1951, when Eritrea joined Ethiopia in a federation.
Then there was the Eritrean War of Independence that ended in May 1991, followed by a bloody two-year border war since 1998 to 2000 With Ethiopia and the subsequent period of the Cold War.
Despite a peace agreement signed in Algiers in December 2000, which ended the border war that is estimated to have killed 70,000 on both sides, the two countries remained in a state of bitter enmity along their border. 1100 kilometers.
That hostility ended in July of this year, when Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace declaration that allowed the resumption of air services, the reopening of telephone lines, the restoration and the reestablishment of diplomatic missions. Their common border reopened on September 11.
Tesfazigi lives in the picturesque and peaceful Eritrean city of Adi Quala, 30 km north of the Ethiopian border.
But the centenary had once lived in Ethiopia and owned two hotels and a natural rubber processing business there, which had to be abandoned when the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea broke up.
He was returned to Eritrea as part of a forced exchange of population between the two countries that saw hundreds of thousands of people deported.
The war and the subsequent cold war between the two nations have cost me dearly.
Teklehaimanot Tesfazigi, Eritrea of 103 years old
Now he spends his days greeting mainly Ethiopian customers in his small hotel "Turista" in the city of Adi Quala.
He says he has hopes for business after the resolution of the common border.
"The war and the subsequent cold war between the two nations have cost me dearly," he told Al Jazeera. "I used to employ more than 2,000 people in Ethiopia before the outbreak of the war, and when I came back to run my hotel business in Adi Quala, we had a chronic shortage, which closed the business for a long time."
Kibreab Tewolde manages the Messebo cement factory in the city of Mekelle in Ethiopia, the capital of the regional state of Tigray, which borders Eritrea.
He hopes that the ports of Eritrea can facilitate renewed commercial links between the two nations.
Landlocked Ethiopia used to rely mainly on the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab for its foreign trade, but the conflict led Ethiopia to change its foreign trade to neighboring Djibouti.
|Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, center, between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, right, and Eritrea's President, Isaiah Afwerki, after the peace agreement of December 12, 2000, in Algiers. [AP Photo]|
Tewolde said Messebo has found a lucrative market in Eritrea for its cement products, and hopes to expand the factory's customer base internationally using the port of Massawa.
"The distance from Mekelle to the port of Massawa is about half the distance from Mekelle to the port of Djibouti," he told Al Jazeera.
"With the reopening of the border with Eritrea, we can reduce transport costs for the approximately 25,000 tons of coal we import monthly to light our cement plant, as well as making it profitable to export our products to the global market."
Tewolde says the two countries lost significant opportunities in the past two decades and expects them to keep their promises this time.
Around 10,000 Eritreans arrive in Ethiopia
Although the reopening has experienced a commercial boom in the border cities of both countries, the number of migrants and refugees from Eritrea to Ethiopia has grown, and many have cited Eritrea's troubled economy, indefinite recruitment and political repression.
After the 1998-2000 border war, Ethiopia expanded its economy, while Eritrea's economy stagnated when the government said it needed to divert resources and human power to combat the possible invasion of its much larger neighbor.
According to UNHCR, between September 12 and October 13, 9,905 Eritreans arrived in Ethiopia, the majority of whom claimed to be trying to reunite with their family.
I will return when there are significant changes in Eritrea. Until then I will live in my second homeland.
Hadas Reda *, Eritrean migrant
The Eritrean migrant Hadas Reda (not her real name), mother of five children, fled to Ethiopia two weeks after the border between the two countries was reopened.
Grabbing her 18-month-old baby, Reda told Al Jazeera that she fled her village near Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, on foot.
It took him a whole day to walk to Ethiopia.
"My husband, a soldier, had already defected to Ethiopia a year ago, leaving me and my children fighting and living on half a hectare of land that the state of Eritrea gave me," said Reda, who lives in the border town of Ethiopia. . Branch
"I came to Ethiopia because I fought economically and wanted to join my husband, I will return when there are significant changes in Eritrea, until then I will live in my second homeland," said Reda, pointing to the common ethnic heritage of People on both sides of the border.
|The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, attend the opening ceremony of the Embassy of Eritrea in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 16, 2018. [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu]|
The streets of the city of Rama are full of new Eritrean refugees who register at the Red Cross and UNHCR centers before moving to refugee camps or moving to other parts of Ethiopia to live with friends or family.
Zenebe Berhane, a spokesman for the city administration of Rama, confirmed the increase, but said the economic gains could reverse the flow of refugees.
"Before the war, the city of Rama had strong economic, political and social relations with Eritrea," he told Al Jazeera. "But with the outbreak of the war, the city suffered a commercial recession, nearby farmers could not grow their fields for fear of conflict.
Now, construction materials, cement and food are sold to buyers in Eritrea, while those in Eritrea sell clothing and electronic products to Ethiopians.
"And even 60 km asphalt road from the city of Adwa to the Ethiopian edge of the border between the two countries is accelerating. Ethiopia has completed a study to use the Eritrean port of Massawa and there are tentative plans to build a university on the borders of the two countries with the help of both governments, "said Zenebe.
For now, at least, many Ethiopians and Eritreans, in spite of mutual distrust, have high hopes of continuing the diplomatic thaw.