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Aboard ET 312, the first commercial flight from Ethiopia to Eritrea in two decades

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner plane is seen at the Asmara International Airport in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Heading home.
By Abdi Latif Dahir
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Ethiopian Airlines dubbed it the “bird of peace”: a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying 315 people that crossed from Ethiopian into Eritrean airspace for the first time in this century.

The 85-minute-long commercial flight on Africa’s biggest airline was the crowning stroke of peace between the two nations, who have remained in a military and political standoff for decades. Resuming the daily flights from Addis Ababa to Asmara augurs a new era for families and friends who were divided for years.

All this was kickstarted last month when Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki both agreed to cease hostilities, reopen borders and embassies, and promised to resume trade. The move was a marked turn for both countries and was welcomed not just across Africa but all over the world.

Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
The pilots are ready.
Reuters/Kumera Gemechu
Cabin crew has arrived for duty.

Yesterday (July 19), long-separated relatives, crying, smiling, sipping champagne and handing each other roses, greeted each other in Asmara’s airport. Due to demand, the airline sent a second flight within 15 minutes of the original flight leaving.


Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Singing and dancing.

Looking at the crowds that thronged Asmara International Airport, it was hard not to remember Abiy’s assertion last weekend, when he called on rival forces engaged in intractable conflicts in the continent to end their antagonism and make peace. “The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond.”

Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Waiting for family and friends.
Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Senait Zaro, reacts as she meets her family for the first time in fifteen years, at Asmara International Airport.
Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Adisalem Abu reacts as he embraces his twin daughters, after meeting them for the first time in eighteen years.
Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Finally together.

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