ASMARA- Some 6,000 war-displaced Eritreans will return to their villages, eight years after fleeing the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, a government newspaper has said.
Eritrea’s secretive government has made no other official mention of the large-scale
return and some aid workers privately said they expected the number of returnees to be even greater.
“The approximately six thousand residents of Akran (a region in southern Eritrea) have been displaced from their villages, their properties looted and their houses destroyed,” according to a translation of an article in the daily Hadas Eritrea.
“(A government representative) said that they are going back to their villages where they can be independent and reminded them that they should make advance agricultural preparations before the harvest season,” the article said on Tuesday.
An estimated 1.1 million Eritreans were displaced by the 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea — almost one third of the roughly 3.6 million population.
About 50,000 Eritreans were still not living in their original homes at the start of January.
Observers fear that more conflict is still possible because the two countries have not fixed their 1,000 km (620 mile) border.
“The stalemate has to be broken if you are to save these countries from another war,” outgoing U.N. mission chief Legwaila Joseph Legwaila told reporters. “Unfortunately the international community did not take it seriously.”
In January, the United States announced a new diplomatic initiative, which resulted in a meeting in London between the two sides. The boundary commission is due to hold another meeting at the end of this month.