In Zalambesa, a town on a
long-disputed border with Eritrean, a few town elders say they could have
solved the dispute that lead to a two-year war and the loss of an estimated
Bahta Hagos told VOA “We
weren’t given the chance to solve the problem but we could have reached a
solution. We Ethiopians and Eritreans are brothers. We don’t have any point that can create disagreement between us. We all know about the land and we could solve the border issue.”
Similarly, several town elders agreed that dispute was a
local issue which they would like to solve through arbitration with their
Eritrean counterparts across the border.
The mandate for the U.N.
peacekeepers who monitored the border for seven years and six months expired
July 31. They arrived at the request of both nations to prevent the restart of war
and now have about 130 civilian staff in Ethiopia and 250 in Eritrea.
All military observers must
be gone from Ethiopia in two weeks.
Personnel in Humera, Burie and
Badme have already left two weeks ago. Those in Sheraro, Shire, Adi Abun, Adigrat, Mekelle and Addis Ababa are
packing now and have about a month to leave Ethiopia.
VOA’s Girmay Gebru
interviewed Bahta and others in the town the day following the expiration of
the U.N. mandate.
Among those interviewed,
Balamberas Reda Adhanom, expressed fear that war might break out after the
peacekeepers have gone. “We are living in
between two fires, so we are thinking that there will be something (war) most
likely,” he said.
Woizero Mana Gebrehiwot
disagrees. She said the people don’t
depend on UNMEE. “We are confident enough on our government and defense, so we
are not afraid of any one,” she said.
Others say the economy is of
greater concern. Yimesel Haftu, a
businessman, said people don’t fear war. “We are worried of dieing from hunger not by war. Business is not running properly so we don’t
have enough food to eat,” he said.
A priest and the chairman of
the town’s local administration, Bizen Neway, thinks the situation in the town
is all the same even after UNMEE’s withdrawal.