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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"It looks like an end to a long war"
 real 28k

Yemane Ghebremeskel, Eritirean government spokesman
"It is not a rout"
 real 28k

Salome Taddesse, Ethiopean government spokesman
"They were trashed, they were kicked out, they were destroyed"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Celebrations in Addis Ababa
Crowd in Addis Ababa
Jubilant scenes in Addis Ababa
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

Ethiopians woke up to state television and radio broadcasts proclaiming that Ethiopian troops had liberated the key border town of Zalembessa, after a two-year occupation by the Eritrean army.



We have waited two years for this and at last the war is nearly over!

Local merchant Hailu Asegdom

Victory songs and poetry from Radio Ethiopia came blasting out of households and shops as the news spread fast.

By 10 o┐clock local time, hundreds had begun gathering in the main square - Meskel Square in Addis Ababa.

Local traders, taxi drivers, civil servants and school children waved the brightly coloured red, green and yellow flag of their country and sang songs of their victory and glowed with pride in their army.

Cheering and jubilation

By midday, tens of thousands had gathered, and many had left work to join in the celebrations. Even thousands of students gathered, as classes at the university had been suspended for the day.


Ethiopia's army
Ethiopia's army: Hailed as heroes

Hundreds of vehicles - decorated with flags - drove through the streets, blowing their horns and cheering.

The Ethiopian Army was also out in force and the military brass band boomed out patriotic songs, which everyone sang along too.

Hailu Asegdom, a local merchant was amongst those celebrating. "I'm so happy, I'm so excited. Shabia (Eritrean army) is down! The EPLF is gone! We have waited two years for this and at last the war is nearly over!

Another jubliant Ethiopian was Mulugeta Mekete, a student: "For two years we have been waiting for peace with our Eritrean brothers. I┐m not happy that it was done forcefully, but at least now this will help the Eritrean people to see what the [Eritrean President] Isaias regime is really like. He has lied to them and they need to take action against him".

Relief

Although there was a jubilant feeling in the air, there was also a sense of relief.

Merid Adane, project coordinator for a local aid agency, re-iterated the words of Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin.


Zalambessa
The fall of Zalambessa is being seen as a great victory

"The country┐s development has suffered a lot because of this war, and it┐s now time to tackle our real enemy, which is poverty."

Zalembessa town, which is on the central front was invaded by Eritrea two years ago, and it┐s liberation has been one of the key objectives of the Addis Ababa government, since the conflict resumed 13 days ago.

Although many believe that this symbolises the beginning of the end of the conflict, the Ethiopian Government says fighting wil continue on the central and eastern fronts, and the conflict will not stop until all Ethiopian territories are liberated.

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See also:

25 May 00 | Media reports
The radio war in the Horn
25 May 00 | Africa
Peace at last?
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