BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Somali Swahili French Great Lakes Hausa Portugeuse
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Africa  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Horn family torn apart by war
Ambassanger Hailu holding photos of his wife and son
Ambassanger Hailu hasn't seen his family for a year

Ambassanger Hailu is a desperate man.

The 27-year-old mechanic appears restless and frustrated as we sit in the open air cafe in central Addis Ababa, amidst the peak hour morning traffic and hustle bustle of people on their way to work.


I think about him day and night and cry when I see his photograph, which is the only reminder I have of him.

Ambassanger Hailu
He fidgets with his already empty coffee cup and I notice the pain in his voice as he recounts his story.

It began in the Eritrean capital, Asmara - a story which has taken him hundreds of kilometres across the disputed border into Ethiopia.

Born in Ethiopia and brought up in Asmara, Ambassanger has lived there all his life but says he felt persecuted and isolated when the war erupted in May 1998 between the two east African neighbours over their disputed border.

He felt he could no longer withstand the constant harassment and accusations of being "a spy for the enemy".

Harrassment

And so Ambassanger made the difficult decision to flee the country he had grown up in - the country where he had established himself, the country where his Eritrean wife and son still remain.

Ambassanger Hailu
Ambassanger Hailu hops to meet his family in a third country

"I couldn't bear it any longer.

"The harassment and arrests by the Eritrean police because I am Ethiopian were just too much to handle.

"I had to get out or they would have drafted me into the military service and sent me to the frontline to kill my own people," he says.

Painful reminder

He fled Eritrea over one year ago. Since then he has had little contact with his family.

"I have come to Addis Ababa to seek a way to be with my wife and my son, Nahom," says Ambassanger.

"Nahom needs a father. He needs a man in his life to teach him and love him.

"We cannot be a family until we are all together.

"I think about him day and night and cry when I see his photograph, which is the only reminder I have of him.

"I have decided that since I cannot go back to Eritrea and my Eritrean wife and son, Nahom, cannot come to Ethiopia, we must meet in a third country.

"I came to Addis to get a passport and a visa for Saudi Arabia, where we can meet.

"It's drastic, I admit, but what other option do I have?"

Eritrean refugees
Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes during the war

Despite an international court ruling in April aimed at settling the disputed 1,000 km border, there are little signs from both Addis Ababa and Asmara that normalisation can take place even four years after the conflict erupted.

During the bitter two-and-half year conflict, tens of thousands of Eritreans living in Ethiopia and Ethiopians living in Eritrea were forcefully deported back to their countries, accused by both governments of being "a threat to national security".

As a result, thousands of families were torn apart - parents separated from their children, husbands from their wives and brothers from their sisters.

Animosities

Earlier this week, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, made a heartfelt plea to Ethiopia and Eritrea to reunifying thousands of families that have been torn apart by the conflict.

The UN is currently involved in a peace-keeping mission along the disputed border and say that the reunification of families can help ease the suffering of thousands affected by the war.

But the border between the two countries remains closed; there are no transportation, telecommunication or postal services and people have no way of contacting their loved ones on the other side of the border.

UN peacekeeping force
The UN is still involved in peace-keeping along the border

And so, while two years of peace may have rendered the guns silent, families like Ambassanger's still anxiously await their moment of reunification.

"We don't see an end to the animosities that exist between Ethiopia and Eritrea," says Ambassanger.

"So, we must now do whatever is necessary to see those that we love."


Border decision

Reactions

Background:

IN PICTURES

TALKING POINT
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes