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Ethiopia moving troops from Eritrean border amid new peace

President Isaias Afwerki with Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed at the Eritrean-Ethiopian border - September 11, 2018

Ethiopia to move troops from Eritrean border as relations thaw

By Aaron Maasho | Reuters

Ethiopia will begin moving its troops away from the border with Eritrea, senior military officials said on Friday, months after the erstwhile enemies reopened it for the first time in 20 years.

“Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are very good - there is no longer the threat of conflict,” Ethiopia’s Major General Asrat Denero, Commander of the Western Command, said.

War broke out between the two countries in 1998 over the border and other issues, killing an estimated 80,000 people before fighting finally ended in 2000 in a contested peace deal.

However, tensions simmered over the position of the frontier until this year when Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed offered to end the standoff as part of a package of reforms that have reshaped the political landscape of the Horn of Africa.

“There is no need to maintain our troops there (on the border). It is necessary to deploy them elsewhere,” Denero said.

Abiy announced the plan for Ethiopian and Eritrean forces along the border to be moved back to camps in September.

“As part of a restructuring of the military, changes are taking place with regards to their positions,” Lieutenant General Mola Hailemariam, Commander of Special Operations of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, told a news conference.

Mola also said that as part of the restructuring the Ethiopian army, which has an estimated 200,000 troops, cut the number of commands to four from six. He did not give a figure for what impact this would have on troop numbers.


Ethiopia moving troops from Eritrean border amid new peace

By Elias Mesret | AP

Ethiopian military officials on Friday announced they are moving troops away from the border with Eritrea, months after the former rivals made a surprising peace.

Relations have "improved tremendously" and the "threat level from the Eritrean side has declined sharply. So we have decided that there is no use in keeping that massive force in the border areas," said Gen. Asrat Denero, head of the army's Western Command. "It will be deployed to other locations."

He did not say how many troops will be moved. Lt. Gen. Molla Hailemariam, special operations chief with the Ethiopian Defense Forces, said the majority of armed forces had been deployed along the border. But the situation "has changed dramatically," Molla said. Both officials spoke during a press conference aired by the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Amid the country's sweeping reforms since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April, officials also say army commands are being cut from six to four, while landlocked Ethiopia seeks to re-establish a naval force.

Ethiopia and Eritrea ended two decades of border tensions related to a bloody 1998-2000 conflict and re-established diplomatic ties this year, opening border points and communications links. Aid groups and others have said several thousand people have crossed into Ethiopia from Eritrea since then, some of them settling in northern villages.

Some Ethiopians have seen the army reforms as a way of reducing the power of some top military commanders from the Tigray region bordering Eritrea. Many from the Tigrayan ethnic group had assumed top ranks in the decades since the ruling coalition assumed power in 1991.

Some former Tigrayan officials who until recently dominated top posts in the government had resisted making peace with Eritrea under previous administrations.

Ethiopian military officials maintain that the country, Africa's second most populous, has one of the largest armies on the continent. Ethiopia is a key security ally of the United States in the Horn of Africa region and is the largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions.

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