On September 11th, 2018 the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea finally reopened after being closed for 20 years. The opening of two points on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border marks an important turning point in a long shared history of conflict, and ties between the two countries are already firmly on the mend. For the first time in decades, citizens of Eritrea can apply for a Ethiopia visa, and vice versa.
Ethiopia Visa Requirements
The majority of passport holders currently need a visa to travel to Ethiopia, with the only two exceptions being its immediate neighbours: Kenyan citizens can enter Ethiopia visa-free for up to a year while citizens of Djibouti can enter for up to 3 months. Passport holders of all other nations require a Ethiopìa travel visa, and can now complete the Ethiopia Visa online application to save time at embassies and in border queues.
Applicants must also choose the length of validity of their visa for Ethiopia, with both a 30-day or a 90-day Ethiopia tourist visa for single entry available. The traveler will have to reapply if they leave Ethiopia before expiration, and wish to go back in. An Ethiopia business visa is also available for those travelling to Ethiopia for purposes other than leisure.
To meet the basic Ethiopia visa requirements, applicants must possess a passport from an eligible country valid for at least 6 months from the entry date to Ethiopia. In order to complete the online form, it’s necessary to fill in the data from the passport information page, answer some security-related questions and pay the visa for Ethiopia fee with a credit or debit card. Further documentation is also required, namely a copy of the passport information page and residency card (if applicable) and an up-to-date passport-style photo, but can be supplied after the application.
It’s also necessary to have a printed copy of the Ethiopia eVisa to present upon arrival at the Ethiopian border. Visa holders must also present a printed copy of their passport alongside the original document to gain entry to the country.
The Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict
Ethiopia is the largest country in the horn of Africa, but nonetheless it has been involved in a decades-long dispute over territory with Eritrea, its much smaller neighbour. Ethiopia shares the entirety of its Northern border with Eritrea, which has a long coastline bordering the strategically important Red Sea. The origin of the conflict dates back to 1962, when the Ethiopian government disbanded the Eritrean parliament and annexed the country.
However, many in Eritrea had foreseen this move and already mobilized a resistance movement, the Eritrean Liberation Front, in order to fight back. The resulting armed struggle, The Eritrean War of Independence, continued for 30 years. In 1991, with the end of the adjacent Ethiopia Civil War, Eritrea was finally granted its independence.
Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea remained cordial after independence, but only for a few years. In 1998, a full-blown war broke out between the two countries over another border dispute, and would sour relations for decades. The Eritrean–Ethiopian War only lasted for two years until June 2000, but nonetheless resulted in massive losses of both life and financial resources for the two countries. A peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea was signed the same year the war ended, but was not implemented until 2018, when the ruling party of Ethiopia finally committed to the terms.
Reopening the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea
When the Eritrean-Ethiopian War broke out in 1998, all ties that had previously united the two countries were suddenly cut. The respective embassies immediately closed down, flights between Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, were suspended indefinitely, and cross-border phone calls became strictly prohibited. Travellers caught in transit between the two countries were forced to stay put outside their native land. Ultimately, they would not be able to return for another 20 years.
Many in both countries doubted that relations would ever improve, and so there was great suprise all around when the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached an agreement to fully implement the peace treaty signed in 2000. Peace was formally declared by both parties in July 2018, and the Eritrean-Ethiopian border finally reopened at two points on September 11th, 2018, the same day as Ethiopian New Year is celebrated.
As soon as the border was opened at the towns of Zalambessa and Burre, family and friends ran across to greet each other for the first time in years. When mobile and landline services were restored, citizens began randomly calling numbers in the other country in order to reach out and celebrate the end of the conflict. Flights and bus lines between the two countries have resumed, and Ethiopian commercial ships can now enter Eritrean ports in the Red Sea. Eritrean passport holders can once again cross the border and are eligible to receive an Ethiopia visa on arrival.