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Eritrea February 2017

 
 27 th Anniversary of 
27th anniversary Fenkil Operation Massawa Eritrea
Fenkil Operation 
 

 

Asmara > Arbaroba Eritrea - February 14 2017

 

Today I will walk down the old railway line. The walk to Nefasit is a long and difficult one (5-6 hours and 25 kilometers. Although the incline is slight and downhill, the railroad surface is rocky and tough on one's feet. So I will only do half the hike from Asmara to Arbaroba, through eight tunnels and passing two major railway bridges.

PTZM bus #1 (to Biet Ghiorghis) will bring you to the road to Massawa. I get off in the industrial area and try to find the track on the right side of the road. Men ask me where I am going. "Arbaroba", is my honest answer, and "It is far!" their reply. I know it is far. The twelve kilometers is perfect for a half day walk, and so is today's weather. It is clouded and a cool breeze is my companion. And a blind horse can find its direction. It is a nice walk with the railway itself as a guide.

This stretch of the Asmara - Massawa railway is the most densely tunneled section, passing tunnels #29 to #22. Two of the tunnels (#27 and #25) are so long that I find myself in complete darkness. It would have been better to add a flashlight to my luggage. With my feet I try to feel and follow the rail on the right side.

The twelve kilometers hike also passes several railway bridges. One is of exciting height. "Don't look down and stay between the two iron bars" I whisper to myself. No chance I will meet a train in the middle. The train will only pass on Sundays, or when chartered by a group of tourists for a few hundred dollars.

Every now and then I pass others who use the railway as a shortcut from A to B. And a military camp. I did not recognise it as a military camp. So sorry to point the camera at you! The pics were not very good anyway, so I will not share them on the web. (It is not allowed to picture the military in Eritrea, but you will meet them everywhere, as Eritrea's neighbor Ethiopia is still lurking for its former province and an access to the Red Sea shore. *)

Even last year in June 2016, ten days after my visit to celebrate Eritrea's 25th Independence Day, Eritrea was hit by a bloody clash on its border with Ethiopia, which left hundreds of people in Eritrea dead and brought back memories of the devastating 1998-2000 war between the two countries.

The Ethiopian regime is still provoking its neighbor every once and a while, hoping Eritrea and its government will lose their patience, or collapse eventually, as the 'no war, no peace' situation will prevent demobilization of Eritrea's armed forces, slow down economic growth, and as a combined result speed up migration of Eritrean youngsters to Europe, who have lost their patience, and are hoping to find peace and prosperety, fleeing war and poor economic prospects.

Their well rehearsed, exaggerated and biased stories will be a guarantee for asylum in the EU, and freeze the now the 17-year-old status quo of ''no peace, no war', instead of solving the existing issues and implementing the EEBC border decisions.. Billions of euros are invested in refugee camps and human trafficking instead of economic development in the horn of Africa, as US geopolitical priorities and Ethiopian hegemony in the region prevail to peace and justice.

From the track one has a nice view on traditional Eritrean villages scattered in the mountainous area. And on the many road construction sites, as many new local roads are added to the road network Heavy trucks cross the railway line to transport sand, rocks and prefab concrete elements. Every once and a while a friendly greeting from the people living in the houses close to the railway line.

Exactly after three hours I arrive in Arbaroba. I visited the village twice in 2016. No need for a long stay. Being one of the rare tourists visiting the village, I find myself surrounded by children asking for a pen. Unfortunately, I only have a few. They are are happy when I share my chewing gum with them. "What is your name? How old are you?" is their standard questioning. I have a coke in one of the Arbaroba bars, and wait for PTZM bus #29 that will bring me back to Asmara.

A fruit drink and a mini pizza in Salem Fast Food at the bus terminal, and a late Frittata lunch in the City Center Snack Bar.

A quick visit to the Tourism Service Center to ask if my permit for Gergera is finished. It did not arrive yet. I meet some disappointed tourists from Sudan. They planned to visit Massawa tomorrow. Their permit did not come. No permits are issued for Asmara this week, the MoT staff explains. Must be a security measure, as the Eritrean president and his ministers are having their rest days in Massawa. So I was very lucky to be there.

  

Start of the Asmara - Arbaroba hike - 116km marker in Asmara.

11:01 Start of the Asmara - Arbaroba hike - 116km marker in Asmara.

Hiking the railway line: Small train stop just outside Asmara.

11:13 Hiking the railway line: Small train stop just outside Asmara.

Hiking the railway line: Passing the first tunnel number 29.

11:35 Hiking the railway line: Passing the first tunnel number 29.

Small modest house near the Asmara-Arbarba railway track.

11:44 Small modest house near the Asmara-Arbarba railway track.

Scenic view on the first railway bridge after Asmara.

11:54 Scenic view on the first railway bridge after Asmara.

Scenic view on the valley from the first railway bridge.

11:55 Scenic view on the valley from the first railway bridge.

Salena! (Picture us!) Eritrean youngsters passing the tourist.

11:56 Salena! (Picture us!) Eritrean youngsters passing the tourist.

Scenic view on the second railway bridge after Asmara.

12:02 Scenic view on the second railway bridge after Asmara.

Railway line crossing the Asmara - Massawa road.

12:14 Railway line crossing the Asmara - Massawa road.

Scenic view from the railway track: walking in the clouds.

12:16 Scenic view from the railway track: walking in the clouds.

Hiking the railway line: passing tunnel number 28.

12:22 Hiking the railway line: passing tunnel number 28.

Hiking the railway line: Shegerini railway station at 110.4km.

12:25 Hiking the railway line: Shegerini railway station at 110.4km.

Hiking the railway line: AloŽ Vera landscape.

12:26 Hiking the railway line: AloŽ Vera landscape.

Hiking the railway line: Scenic view from tunnel number 24.

13:02 Hiking the railway line: Scenic view from tunnel number 24.

Hiking the railway line: View on new roads under construction.

13:03 Hiking the railway line: View on new roads under construction.

Hiking the railway line: Scenic view on tunnel number 22.

13:10 Hiking the railway line: Scenic view on tunnel number 22.

Hiking the railway line: Scenic view on a village from the track

13:21 Hiking the railway line: Scenic view on a village from the track.

Hiking the railway line: Donkey carrying firewood.

13:32 Hiking the railway line: Donkey carrying firewood.

Hiking the railway line: Railway meets highway near Arbaroba.

13:41 Hiking the railway line: Railway meets highway near Arbaroba.

Hiking the railway line: passing a clouded Arbaroba village.

13:47 Hiking the railway line: passing a clouded Arbaroba village.

Hiking the railway line: Cargo train - Arbaroba railway station.

13:52 Hiking the railway line: Cargo train - Arbaroba railway station.

Hiking the railway line: Arbaroba railway station.

13:53 Hiking the railway line: Arbaroba railway station.

Hiking the railway line: Entrance to the water storage cellar.

13:54 Hiking the railway line: Entrance to the water storage cellar.

Back to Asmara: Arboroba bus stop / railway bridge.

14:01 Back to Asmara: Arboroba bus stop / railway bridge.

  


*) December 12, 2000 Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement in Algiers, after a 2 1/2-year border war.

Article 4, sub article 15 reads as follows: ďThe parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other partyĒ.

On April 13th 2002 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague published the conclusions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.

In September 2003 Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, formally informed the Security Council that Ethiopia rejected the decisions of the International Boundary Commission (arbitration of the International Court in the Hague). He declared the proposed 1 000 km international border drafted by the commission as "null and void".

This disrespect of Ethiopia for the decisions of the Court of Justice in The Hague has practically halted the peace process. Still the UN needs to live up to its responsibility of ensuring the implementation of the final and binding resolution of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's ruling on border delimitation.

   

 
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