People who live in towns along Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea are not worried about another war. Even though UNMEE peacekeeping troops pulled out in August and opposing armed military forces face one another, life in these towns is quiet, too quiet.
The big problem in Zalambesa and other towns near the long-disputed border is severe economic hardship brought on by drought, escalating food prices and eight years of a failing local economy, say students, merchants and priests who talked to VOA’s Girmay Gebru recently.
Residents of Zalambesa said these remote community have been cut off from the rest of the country and from their neighbors to the north, and their businessed have suffered. They said shopkeepers can’t run their businesses and the local economy is in critical condition. These towns are remote and as long as the border between the two countries remains closed, businesses are doomed.
Tsega Baraki, a business woman in Zalambesa, said she and other traders in the area bought teff, wheat and other commodities but they can’t sell them.
“People don’t have the capacity to buy food so that everyone is living having the food aid from the government.” She said it’s difficult to buy wheat at 630 birr a quintal, and teff at 980 birr. “The only thing we need is peace. We need it very badly and it is in the hands of both governments,” said Tsega.
Tirhas Hagos, who also lives in Zalambesa, said “Because of scarcity of rain in the area, there will be drought risk.” She added that the federal government has not yet started to sell lower-priced wheat in local kebeles.
“We need peace from both governments,” said Ato Kiros Gebremedhin one of the elders in Zalambesa. “Economic recovery in the town is unthinkable unless there is peace and normalization between Ethiopia and Eritrea.”