Residents protest peace deal on Ethiopia-Eritrea border

Residents of the flashpoint town of Badme on Ethiopia's northern border protested on Monday Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's move to hand over the town to Eritrea, a government spokesperson said.

Abiy announced last week that he was reversing years of policy and would accept a 2002 United Nations-backed demarcation of Ethiopia's border that would see Badme made part of Eritrea.

Reda'e Halefom, a spokesperso for the regional state Tigray on Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, told AFP around 25 000 Ethiopian residents of Badme and surrounding areas marched through the town's streets in protest over Abiy's announcement.

"It was very peaceful, and they simply wanted to convey their messages that they are Ethiopians and they don't want to see the Algiers agreement implemented as it is without discussion," Reda'e said.

Signed in 2000, the Algiers agreement ended a war that had begun two years prior along Ethiopia and Eritrea's shared border which left around 80 000 people dead.

Ethiopia refused to accept the demarcation issued two years later by the border commission, and its troops continue to occupy Badme despite the UN saying it is Eritrean territory.

Eritrea has not responded publicly to Abiy's announcement, and Ethiopia has not said when it will pull its troops from the town.

Eritrea has used Ethiopia's occupation of Badme as justification for a range of policies that critics say amounts to putting the country on a permanent war footing.

There is no constitution or independent media, all dissidents have been locked up or fled the country and Eritrea's indefinite national conscription programme has been likened to slavery by the UN.

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