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the patriot
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posted 22 February 2021 11:53     Profile for the patriot   Email the patriot     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
February 21, 2021

'War is over' for Ethiopia, Eritrea
By MATTHEW FISHER -- Sun Columnist at Large

SENAFE, Ethiopian-Occupied Eritrea -- As peacekeepers from the Royal Canadian Regiment surveyed the amazing scene, the Ethiopian Army climbed down out of the mountains and headed for home yesterday across a bleak, rock-strewn desert.

By donkey and aboard tanks and trucks, but mostly on foot, about 1,000 Ethiopian troops withdrew silently from a dusty moonscape where as many as 15,000 Ethiopians and an unknown number of Eritreans died in several days of ferocious fighting between two of the world's poorest countries last May.

Ethiopian and Eritrean forces were reported to be pulling back in large numbers yesterday along a 900-km ceasefire line, 25 km inside Eritrea, that had mostly held since the latest fighting in a war that ended last June.

As many as 100,000 soldiers and civilians were believed to have died when the war resumed in 1998 after a seven-year lull, which followed Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia.

"This is a monumental success," said Maj. Roger Barrett, of Toronto, whose soldiers oversaw the withdrawal in and near Senafe. "The armies are now out of the most sensitive area. The message they were sending is: 'This war is over'."

"We could not have done this without the Canadians. They have been very disciplined and have been very cooperative," said Lt.-Col. Haile Fekade, who oversaw the Ethiopian withdrawal from Senafe, where some of the heaviest fighting took place.

As the colonel spoke, his soldiers marched past, wearing an assortment of combat boots, running shoes and sandals. Some had no weapons. Others carried Soviet sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and American guns, which may have been first used in World War II.

As well as establishing a 25-km temporary security zone with peacekeepers from several other countries, including the Netherlands, the Canadians are also urgently discussing the location of minefields near Senafe before the return of hundreds of thousands of Eritrean civilians displaced by the fighting.

The peaceful strategic withdrawals, which are expected to continue for another five days, represent a triumph for the two warring nations, as well as for the UN, which has had many disappointments in Africa recently.

It's also heartening for the Canadian Armed Forces, who are back in the Horn of Africa for the first time since the Somalia peacekeeping mission ended in controversy and disgrace eight years ago.

"We have had success so far, but we must remember that the situation here is like peeling an onion. There is always another layer to peel," said Lt.-Cmdr. Al Wong, a Canadian officer who acts as the UN's military spokesman in Eritrea and Ethiopia

The Canadian blue helmets, mostly Maritimers based at CFB Gagetown, N.B., have been a stabilizing influence on some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet.

Ethiopian and Eritrean troops had been eyeballing each for months in trenches, often less than 200 metres apart, when the Canadians began arriving in this isolated mountainous desert region in late December.


There has been unexpected goodwill on both sides of the No Man's Land, an awesome ribbon of trenches that stretches to the west and east of the north side of Senafe.

Canadian patrols reported that in recent days soldiers from both armies have climbed out of their trenches to dance to applause and laughter from the enemy.

"Frankly, we were obliged to defend our territory, but we are happy to now have peace," said George Tesfay Asbu, an Eritrean liaison officer living on the front lines. "When they saw the Canadian soldiers come, our women ululated, which is a sign of great joy."

Lt.-Col. Fekade, of the Ethiopian army, said his country had been forced to fight, too.

"We are going across the border because this is Eritrean territory and we are very eager to leave," he said. "We hope the peace is a strong one and that there are no attacks."


-the patriot-

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