The Ethiopian government has allowed foreign journalists to visit Asmara, the capital of Eritrea - the northern province when fighting continues between government troops and secessionist guerrillas.
The Ethiopian government has allowed foreign journalists to visit Asmara, the capital of Eritrea - the northern province when fighting continues between government troops and secessionist guerrillas. Asmara provided a base for the Ethiopian assault against the nationalist-held town of Keren, to the north last November. Keren was taken by the government forces after bitter fighting which left both Keren and Asmara, and the coast port of Massawa, in ruins.
SYNOPSIS: Asmara is the second largest city in Ethiopia and an important industrial area. In October, 1977, it was isolated and besieged for several months by Eritrean secessionists before the government forces, in a massive Soviet-backed offensive, regained control. Now with Ethiopian troops firmly entrenched in Asmara, Colonel Fikru Wolde Tensai, chief administrator for Eritrea, assured visiting foreign newsmen that life was returning to normal.
The government claimed secessionist attacks destroyed most of the city's industrial sites,, but with the help of the army, local residents have now rebuilt more than 40 percent of the gutted factories. Although most of Asmara's industry is geared to production of local consumer goods, some, like this textile plant employing 760 people offers potential for growth and eventual export.
So too does this edible oil factory, the largest producer in the region. It was badly damaged in fighting but is operational again. Its rebuilding was a top priority when the army moved into Asrama, for oil seeds represent one of Ethiopia's major export crops and its industries are largely engaged in processing its agricultural products.
At the Melotti factory owned by an Italian businessman, there are plans to double the production of 300,,000 bottles of beer a day. Union members hold regular meetings to discuss ways of stepping up output.
The Eritrean secessionists fought much of their 17-year war for independence in and around the city. But now Ethiopia says it will stamp out any pockets of resistance still left in the north, and end the rebellion. Its successful campaign to date has been largely due to the backing of Soviet military aid. In the region of the deposed Haile Sellassie, the United States operated a major communications base at Kagnew, near Asmara. But when the new military government took control and signed a treaty with the Soviet Union, it was the Mig fighters that moved into wage a relentless air war against the well-entrenched secessionist forces in the strategic northern towns and countryside.
Ethiopia is determined to hold onto Asmara at all costs and the presence of the Soviet planes adds strength to its intentions. The heavy bombing of Keren by the Migs in the November assault was largely responsible for the Ethiopian's victory, which it claimed virtually ended the long war for independence.