Peace Corps returns to Ethiopia after 10 years
October 4, 2007,
CNN.com

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- The Peace Corps returns to Ethiopia this weekend after a vicious war sent its volunteers packing nearly 10 years ago, the regional head of the U.S. development organization said.
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(left) An HIV-positive Ethiopian girl rests. The Peace Corps is returning to Ethiopia to work on AIDS projects.

On Sunday, 43 Peace Corps volunteers who will work on AIDS projects will arrive in Ethiopia to start two-year postings. They are the first wave of Peace Corps personnel since the organization's departure in 1999 during a border war between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.

Henry McKoy, the Peace Corps Africa director, said on Wednesday that the organization has spent two years preparing for its return to Ethiopia.

He said the return would not be affected by a bill passed by U.S. legislators on Tuesday requiring the Ethiopian government to improve its human rights record or risk losing substantial aid. The bill is not yet law.

McKoy said the return of the Peace Corps "gives us a chance to renew our partnership, to build on strong ties."

Ethiopia was one of the first countries to offer to host the Peace Corps after the organization was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Since the first Americans arrived in 1962, more than 3,500 have worked in Ethiopia.

All the new volunteers, who range in age from 25 to 63, will work with the nation's Health Ministry on AIDS projects in villages in the country's west and north.

By the end of the first year, Ethiopia will have about 100 volunteers.

Kimberly Flowers, who now lives in Addis Ababa and works in international development, was a young Peace Corps volunteer assigned to Ethiopia in 1999. After the project here was canceled, she was sent to Bulgaria, where she served her two-year tour.

"As one of the volunteers scheduled to come to Ethiopia in 1999, I am personally thrilled to see Peace Corps return to the country," said Flowers, 31.

Africa has more than a third of all Peace Corps volunteers worldwide, with 2,800 volunteers in 25 countries.