Ethiopia’s leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokeswoman doesn’t think it was incitement to violence

Edward Gebremeskel has strong view on both Ethiopians and Eritreans saying ‘we are friends’ Ethiopia’s leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokeswoman doesn’t think it was incitement to violence Ethiopia’s president said…

Ethiopia's leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokeswoman doesn't think it was incitement to violence

Edward Gebremeskel has strong view on both Ethiopians and Eritreans saying ‘we are friends’

Ethiopia’s leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokeswoman doesn’t think it was incitement to violence

Ethiopia’s president said he would bury his enemy Eritrea’s president, taking a stunning initiative for two old foes that went to war almost 20 years ago, when the arch foes flew across the Red Sea to hammer out an agreement to end hostilities.

It brought a swift and telling rebuke of his country’s new government that had tried to slam Ethiopia back into a protracted cycle of conflict and repression. But the blast wasn’t as harsh as many had feared.

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“The statement made was out of the place of responsibility of state officials at the time and we as a government cannot expect a specific result,” Samantha Haile-Mariam, a spokeswoman for the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said.

It was “purely a shock”, she said.

The foreign minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, said it was “regrettable” that Ethiopia’s youth and its people would be hurt because of an “erroneous misinterpretation” by the Ethiopian media. “Abiy made that statement to clear the air and for caution and cautionary purposes,” he said.

The son of exiled Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki urged him to “open a dialogue with Ethiopia in order to end what his father created”.

“We are his children, we are hurting as a nation and we need his voice and his leadership in order to solve our national issue,” said 20-year-old Hidane Afwerki.

Eritrea’s ruling party has repeatedly denied involvement in the 1999-2000 fighting between the two countries and its military has never been used to kill people. But Beshir Gemechu, the exiled leader of Ethiopia’s opposition party, FJP, said the statement was “a step too far and the dictator government is pushing Ethiopia into the gates of a civil war”.

After two decades of mainly quiet peace, Abiy’s reforms — which include releasing thousands of dissidents, relaxing censorship and reaching a peace agreement with neighbouring Sudan — have sparked fears of increased instability and another flareup of conflict.

Nearly a year after the historic peace deal, Ethiopia and Eritrea accuse each other of staging incursions and trade-union leaders have called for a boycott of the government’s products, saying the economic gains are going to Abiy’s rich allies.

Western diplomats who thought they would spend a couple of weeks training security forces are now faced with months of pushing and shoving.

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