In a close relationship spanning centuries, Ethiopia and Sudan share a lot more than political borders. One sign of their cultural connection is the popularity of Sudanese music across different cities in Ethiopia. Another, more recent phenomenon that has brought the two countries even closer together is a fairly simple one.
For about a year, it has become common to see Sudanese license plates on public transport buses rattling across Addis Ababa’s busy streets. Sudanese music pours out of their windows and the wheels are directed toward Khartoum, crossing the Ethio-Sudanese border. These enormous buses operate the only cross-national, inland public transport from Addis Ababa.
Melaku Meskele is an Ethiopian passenger traveling from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, Meskel Square. It has been four years since he moved to Sudan. “Before, my only choice to travel back to Ethiopia was by air, but it was too expensive on my small income. Now I have found an affordable means of transport to travel back to Ethiopia any time I want to visit my family.”
Among the six countries that neighbour Ethiopia, Sudan shares the longest border and inhabits the largest Ethiopian population.
As ancient centres of civilisation, the two countries’ relationship started with trade and culture. Currently, this relationship is being strengthened through political, economic and intercommoned relationships. The governments of the two nations have committees that summon their leaders every year. Economic integration, trade development, and investment are three of the 13 important focus areas of their joint committees.
Now I have found an affordable means of transport to travel back to Ethiopia any time I want to visit my family.”
Federal Transport Authority of Ethiopia’s Deputy Director of Public Transport, Tesfaye Solomon says, the dominant factor for starting the inland public transport was to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
He also remarks that there have been a series of discussions that took years before the bus route’s commencement, and it was launched after the two countries reached the consensus that the route would open doors to more ways of connecting.
Another passenger along the 1,500 km Addis Ababa – Khartoum inland route is Merima Ali. “I used to feel very far away, both physically and emotionally. But now I can travel from Khartoum to Addis like I am traveling to the countryside.”
The two-day journey beginning from Addis travels 800 kilometres within the Ethiopian border and ends after 700 more kilometres along Sudanese roads. “I lived in Khartoum for 10 years,” said one passenger. “But I never had a clue what other parts of Sudan looked like.”