Ethiopia turns full circle helping refugees: president

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Addis Ababa, 2 September 2014 (WIC) - President Dr. Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia said his country saw extending the hand of friendly assistance to neighbors South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea as its duty.

“We not only share borders but also we share destiny,” he said in an interview in Ankara last week following his attendance at the swearing-in ceremony for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Ethiopia is trying very hard to bring peace and stability to Sudan,” he added. “We are working very hard in trying to stabilize our neighbors South Sudan and Somalia.”

Mulatu believes that Ethiopia will gain a strong economic partner when peace and stability is established in South Sudan.

The Ethiopian government has been providing humanitarian aid in 23 refugee camps and five transit sites around the country, according to the UN.

South Sudan, which achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir Mayardit accused former vice president Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow the government.

Fighting between government troops and rebels in South Sudan forced 800,000 people displacing from their homes.

Mulatu drew comparisons between Ethiopia’s help to South Sudan and other neighboring countries and Turkey’s support for Syrian refugees.
“We are [both] extending our hand to the suffering people of neighboring countries,” Mulatu said.

Ethiopia's image has long been as one of Africa's most needy nations but the country has now turned the tables to become the largest refugee-hosting country on the continent.

The famines of the 1980s and war with Eritrea in the 1990s saw hundreds of thousands casualties, but today Ethiopia is helping those affected by conflicts on its borders.

Fighting in neighboring South Sudan has seen Ethiopia take in more than 250,000 displaced persons, contributing to a refugee population of nearly 630,000 in the east African state.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, Ethiopia has now had overtaken Kenya in terms of offering refuge to those fleeing other African states. (Anadolu Agency)