Phone lines open between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and people are calling strangers

Eritrea 2018.jpg

UN Photo/Cia Pak Osman Mohammed Saleh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content

The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea that has roots stretching back to the 1960s has finally come to an end, resulting in one of the most unexpected consequences of any peacetime period.

In 1991, following decades of armed struggle, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. However, uncertainty over where the border between the two countries should run eventually erupted into war. The situation escalated during two years of fighting between 1998 and 2000. Thousands of people died, leading to a period of ongoing tension interspersed with outbreaks of armed conflict.

When the hostilities ceased with the formal signing of a joint declaration, there was an outpouring of warmth between citizens of the two countries.

Most notably, some enthusiastically embraced the newly-restored ability to place telephone calls to their neighbouring nation. Not just to speak to friends and family they were previously separated from, but people also called complete strangers at random. Many also took to social media to share their excitement.

“I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but I am from Ethiopia and I am so excited to talk to you,” said Roman Tafessework Gomeju, who described herself as “crazy happy” in a Facebook post, the New York Times reports.

Her excitement was echoed elsewhere in Ethiopia and across the border in Eritrea too.

Even though language barriers persist for many, they weren’t an obstacle for those taking the opportunity to find some common linguistic ground.

And even the most prosaic of encounters took on a deeper significance. After all, when was the last time you called a hotel receptionist just to have a conversation?

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