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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Ethiopia hails 'victory' ruling
Poeple in Addis Ababa celebrated the decision
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The BBC's Nita Bhalla
Addis Ababa
line
Ethiopians feel vindicated by the ruling that settled the country's border dispute with Eritrea.

The government in Addis Ababa claimed victory following the decision by an independent Boundary Commission in The Hague.


We are the winners. We got our land. We got our country. All of us are happy.

Haile Legesse, civil servant
After the ruling people gathered in cafes and restaurants. State media issued congratulatory wishes to the Ethiopian people for persevering with the four-year-long conflict.

The war, which began in May 1998, has claimed tens of thousands of lives and left over a million people displaced on both sides of the border.

Euphoria

After the announcement thousands of people gathered in Meskel Square, in central of Addis Ababa, to celebrate the ruling.

Celebrations in Addis Ababa after the ruling
The war is over
There was an atmosphere of euphoria with singing and dancing, as the news that Ethiopia had been awarded what the government said was "all territories" that it had claimed.

Ethiopians of all ages and from all walks of life, sporting banners and waving the Ethiopian tricolour and palm leaves turned out to celebrate what they called "a victory of peace over aggression".

"We are the winners. We got our land. We got our country. All of us are happy today", said Haile Legesse, a civil servant.

"We are very happy with the Hague decision as they have given us everything that we wanted. All we want is peace and to live happily with our Eritrean brothers", said taxi driver Samson Degefe.

"As we are happy, the Eritreans should be happy. The decision means peace at last and we really want relations to go back to the way they used to be. Ethiopians and Eritreans are the same people, after all", said Alemayhu Hailu, a shop keeper.

Landlocked

Despite the initial celebrations, some Ethiopians say they are disappointed because their appeal to the boundary commission to include the issue of the Eritrean port of Assab was not heeded.

80,000 lives were lost in the war
Many believe that landlocked Ethiopia has a historical right to the port and claim that Ethiopia's economy has suffered as a result of loss of the port when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

But Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Assab had nothing to do with the border commission ruling. He added that claiming Assab was tantamount to claiming Eritrea, which is a sovereign state.

Currently, 4,200 United Nations peacekeepers are on high alert in a 25 km buffer zone known as the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).

Sources estimate that approximately 40,000 Eritrean soldiers and 35,000 Ethiopian soldiers are stationed along the northern and southern boundaries of the TSZ.

See also:

15 Apr 02 | Africa
Eritreans celebrate peace
14 Apr 02 | Africa
Eritrea accepts border ruling
13 Apr 02 | Africa
Eritrea-Ethiopia border defined
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