By Tesfa-alem Tekle
March 1, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — The Total number of Eritrean military members who deserted to Ethiopia during the past few years have hit 5584.Administration for refugees and returnees affairs (ARRA) disclosed.
The defected soldiers include top government military officials whom among Mengsteab Girmay, former member of the Eritrean intelligence unit who last year uncovered the secret brutal chemical massacre of 26 innocent Eritrean civilians.
Defecting from the Eritrean army is being taken as an option by Eritrean soldiers to escape from the political and oppression of the regime.
Most of the soldiers flee to Ethiopia and neighboring Sudan as they could no more take to what they call it is ill military policy, maximum repression and secret detaining and killings.
Among those fled to Ethiopia a former Eritrean solider in condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune that he was arrested for eight months tortured and received threats on his life for leaking military information, to which he denies.
He alleged there is extreme distrust among the members of the army and also among higher military officials that everyone is suspicious of the other.
Despite what Ethiopia and Eritrea went through there are promising efforts begun by Ethiopia to bring the historically and blood-related brotherly people of the two countries close to each other in an effort to bury the sense of hostility between them.
According to Administration for refugees and returnees affairs (ARRA) fleeing Eritreans are well received and get an immediate treatment from their arrival at Ethiopian borders by security forces there before they are taken to camps.
Zemicheal Tesfay, a recent arrival, says that he had every fear of mistreatment bearing in his mind that the countries went to war but the actual treatment he received since day one of his arrival was far from he thought.
“Eritreans here are treated as citizens and with respect beginning their arrival” he said
He believes that such handling could be bridges to heal roughen ties of the two people.
The Eritreans at Shimelba camp (where currently 32,000 Eritreans shelter) has health, and education centers, managed by the international and local organizations.
“So far Ethiopia has resettled 3963 Eritrean refugees to European countries and to the United States. Some 6500 are also in preparation for resettlement.” Law and protection head under ARRA, Estifanos Gebremedhin said
Addis Ababa and Asmara fought a 1998-2000 conflict over their disputed frontier that killed an estimated 70,000 people.