Thousands join Ethiopia-Eritrea peace run
Sunday November 11 2018
Thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans took part in a 10-kilometre reconciliation run Sunday in Addis Ababa in the first joint sporting event since the former bitter foes launched a rapid diplomatic thaw in July.
The peace run through the Ethiopian capital caught a new positive mood after years of "cold war".
The two countries fought a war from 1998-2000 that left an estimated 80,000 people dead on both sides.
Reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over in Addis Ababa in April and kicked off peace moves, agreeing to hand back disputed areas to Eritrea.
The neighbours have restored diplomatic ties, trade and phone links, resumed flights and re-opened their common borders.
Sunday was the first athletics event for the new friends and Ethiopian Mohammed Ahmed said he took time off work and trained hard for the "noble" race.
"I'm very happy, I don't know how I can properly express my happiness to you, there is nothing more than love, reconciliation and happiness in this world," he said.
Ethiopian police constable Chalachew Addis had personal reasons to attend after the borders were re-opened on September 11.
"With the opening of the border my brother has come back to Ethiopia after 20 years and met me," said a beaming Chalachew.
"I'm running this race while wearing Eritrean flag, I feel happy this day has come," he told AFP.
A border dispute
Nega Belay, former coach of Eritrean athletics star Zersenay Tadese and a representative of the Eritrean community in London was also celebrating.
"This is not a run of two people, but a run of one people, what differentiates them is minor or can be said to be non-existent, they are similar in every sense," Nega told AFP.
He said he was holding discussions with Eritrean National Athletics Federation (ENAF) to stage a similar event in the Eritrean capital Asmara on January 1, 2019.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s and war broke out later that decade over a border dispute.
A 2002 UN-backed boundary demarcation was meant to settle the dispute, but Ethiopia refused to abide by it.