Yemen, Ethiopia revive ties
“There is no longer a vital relationship between the two lands which make a cross of the sea, not a dam,” Waleed Saeed, the cultural coordinator in the Yemen-Ethiopian Friendship Association, said during a speech about the relationship between the two countries, which overlook the shores of the Red Sea.
In 2003, the association was suspended for financial reasons. Yemeni merchants in Ethiopia and in Yemen have supported the re-establishment of the association ever since.
Ez Al-Deen Hibahwas re-elected as the group’s leader, in addition to the ten members elected to the administration board. Seven were elected for the first time.
The association aims to strengthen the social, economic and cultural relationships between the two countries and to coordinate exchanges between public and private organizations. In addition, joint activities to illustrate each country’s history, culture, education and heritage will be organized.
“The relationship could be stronger if our brothers in Ethiopia establish a similar association in their country,” Hibah said, indicating that such association, once established, will increase coordination between the two countries.
Hibah said the historic relationship between Yemen and Ethiopia is the strongest in the region. However, he said the political regimes of the two countries have broken up the economic, social and political ties between the two countries.
Ethiopians constitute the biggest foreign community in Yemen. Ethiopians face numerous challenges similar to the displaced persons, estimated at 500,000, in Yemen.
Ethiopians in Yemen do run successful commercial businesses, including the Al-Zajni, Al-Tabs and Al-Ktfoo restaurants. Ethiopians own and work at the establishments. Others live under conditions similar to that of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Many Ethiopians find work as housekeepers.
Sisai Shamls and his wife own the Yemeni-Ethiopian restaurant in the vicinity of Ethiopian embassy. They complained about the income decline, saying 2010 netted higher profits.
Along Wahadah [Unity] Street in Sana’a, there are many Ethiopian clubs, which contribute to livening the city in Sana’a.
Ethiopian barbershops and beauty salons introduce the latest elegant Ethiopian fashions.
“The Ethiopians are more obsessed about fashion in comparison to Yemenis,” Asmer, an Ethiopian barber, said.
Photos of Ethiopian emperor Haile Seliasie hang in many Ethiopian businesses.
Crowned king in 1928, he became an emperor in 1930. Seliasie merged Eritrea and Somalia into one kingdom and later became the ruler of the Horn of Africa.
He was overthrown in 1974 after a communist revolution led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, who exiled Haile Seliasie to his palace prior to his mysterious demise. Haile Sailiasie loyalists, estimated at 500,000 people, consider him a god who remains alive.
Shalms said if the Sailasie era continued, Ethiopians would not have needed to emigrate.
“Ethiopia could have been the destination of victims and the poor,” he said.
Saeed said Sailiasie’s removal from power caused the stoppage of Yemeni immigration to Ethiopia and to the Horn of Africa.
He also said that according to Yemeni businessman Ali Mohammed Saeed, most of the commercial sales in Yemen are Ethiopian-made.
Walid Saeed, the cultural officer at the association, said there will be arrangements for cultural activities in coordination with the Ethiopian embassy in Sana’a.
The association will also provide legal support for Ethiopian workers in Yemen who are vulnerable to violations by their employers or by their guardians.