Eritrea and Ethiopia ‘open door of peace’ after first talks in 20 years

Eritrea's Foreign Minister Osman Sale, center-right, is welcomed by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center-left, upon the Eritrean delegation's arrival at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Tuesday, June 26, 2018. The delegation of top officials from Eritrea arrived Tuesday for the first peace talks in 20 years and were welcomed at the airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, signifying the importance of their visit. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
Updated 27 June 2018
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Eritrea and Ethiopia ‘open door of peace’ after first talks in 20 years

ADDIS ABABA: Long-time foes Eritrea and Ethiopia “opened the door of peace” on Tuesday after the first high-level visit from Asmara to Addis Ababa in nearly two decades, raising hopes for an end to one of Africa’s most intractable military stand-offs.
In a highly symbolic move, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Ethiopian Airlines would restart flights to Eritrea for the first time since 1998 when conflict erupted between the two nations over their disputed border, with diplomatic relations broken off ever since.
Tuesday’s visit comes after Abiy said this month he would honor all the terms of a peace deal, suggesting he might be ready to settle the border dispute, a move welcomed by Eritrea.
“Today is a day of joy because two identical peoples and two generations have been separated throughout that period. But through struggles, we have opened the door of peace,” said Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh.
Abiy said he hoped the dispute would end with this generation and reiterated his willingness to accept the transfer of territory.
“There will be lands swapped between the two countries but that will not matter — there will not be a border between us as our relationship will strengthen,” he said at a state dinner with the Eritrean representatives.
“For Ethiopians who have longed for heading to Massawa (in Eritrea) for a stroll, I call on you to be ready as Ethiopian Airlines will start services there soon,” he said, without giving further details.
Earlier Olympic athletes, singers, actors and religious leaders joined Abiy at Addis Abiba airport to welcome Saleh and other top officials, who were presented with garlands of flowers.
The flags of both countries fluttered from lampposts in Addis Ababa along with a banner reading “Welcome!“
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki had welcomed Ethiopia’s “positive messages” and decided to send the delegation that included his adviser Yemane Gebreab and his envoy to the African Union.
The border war killed some 80,000 people and the sides remain at odds over the status of the frontier town of Badme. The border remains militarised.
Abiy was at a rally hit by a grenade that killed two people on Saturday an attack that government-affiliated media blamed on opponents of reforms announced since he took office in April, including airline and telecoms privatizations and the rapprochement with Eritrea.
Eritrea and Ethiopia broke off diplomatic relations two decades ago, although Asmara has a permanent delegation in Addis Ababa representing it at the African Union, whose headquarters are in the Ethiopian capital.
No Eritrean representatives have been part of an official visit for talks with the Ethiopian government since at least 1998.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 17 June 2019
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.