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Ethiopian, Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from border: Abiy

Ethiopian, Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from border: Abiy

Eritrea

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed says troops from his country will be withdrawn from the border with Eritrea to ease tensions.

The development follows the Tuesday re-opening of border points between their two countries for road transport, in a first since the two neighbours fought a war two decades ago.

Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki and Abiy visited troops along the border on Tuesday to celebrate the Ethiopian New Year, and together re-opened border points on the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides.

Abiy told journalists upon his return to Addis Ababa, that the New Year had been heralded by demolishing trenches along the border.

“As of today, Ethiopia’s defence forces (along the border with Eritrea) will be gathered to camps and ease tension that was often extreme. The same will be done from the Eritrean side,’‘ Abiy said.

Joyous reunions following border re-opening

Thousands of people from both countries watched one border opening ceremony in Zalambessa, an Ethiopian border town that was reduced to rubble soon after hostilities between the neighbours started in 1998.

Soldiers and civilians waving Ethiopian and Eritrean flags lined the road as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki opened the frontier in a ceremony broadcast live on Ethiopian state TV.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Ruta Haddis, an Eritrean from the town of Senafe just across the frontier, told reporters. “I never thought this would take place in my lifetime.”

Earlier, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki visited their troops stationed at Bure, a region that saw some of the fiercest fighting during their 1998-2000 war.

Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal

Tensions over the border burned on after the fighting ended – until Abiy offered to end the military standoff this year as part of a package of reforms that has reshaped the political landscape in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Since signing an agreement in Asmara on July 9 to restore ties, the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders have moved swiftly to end the two decades of hostility.

Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in July, and Ethiopia reciprocated last week.

The two countries have resumed flights. Eritrea has agreed to open up its ports to its landlocked neighbour and last week announced plans to upgrade a road between them.

Ethiopian New Year

Ethiopia follows a calendar similar to the ancient Julian calendar — which started disappearing from the West in the 16th century — meaning the country will enter its year 2011 on September 11.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar used officially in Eritrea and the West, Ethiopia’s version squeezes 13 months into every year — 12 months comprising 30 days each and a final month made up of just five or six days depending on whether it is a leap year.

Time is also measured differently in the Horn of Africa country. Days start at dawn rather than midnight.

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