By Devin Watkins
Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia on Monday, less than a week after the two nations’ leaders declared their “state of war” over.
The rapid thaw, following two decades of military stalemate over a border war that killed tens of thousands of people, was accompanied by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s first visit to Ethiopia in two decades.
Peace talks in a word
“Providential is the right word,” said Bishop Giuseppe Franzelli of Lira in Uganda, “because these things do not happen by chance.”
He was speaking to Fr. Paul Samasumo on the sidelines of the AMECEA Plenary Assembly taking place in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
President Afwerki’s visit coincided with the meeting of AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) in the same city.
‘Answer to our prayers’
At least 80,000 people died in the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, which took place from May 1998 to June 2000.
“We’ve been asking for peace and reconciliation in Africa,” Bishop Franzelli said. “There’s a lot to be done.”
He said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, called the two leader’s meeting and peace efforts “God’s answer to our prayers.”
“It is also a sign of hope and encouragement to us,” Bishop Franzelli said, “not only to congratulate the leaders who had the courage to stop fighting and start talking, but it also shows us the way to go.”
Africa: sign for world
He said peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea represent “the local initiative of African leaders, who – if they want and if their minds are enlightened enough – can find ways” for peace.
Bishop Franzelli said Africa can be a sign for the world. “Africa is not only on the receiving end. Africa can give a lot to the rest of the world.”