Peace Corps Suspends Program in Ethiopia; All Volunteers Evacuated Safely to Kenya
February 11, 1999Washington D.C., February 11, 1999—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan announced today that the Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its program in Ethiopia because of the continued fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. All volunteers and staff have been safely evacuated to Kenya. "The Peace Corps has a long-standing commitment to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers," said Gearan. "In light of the circumstances in Ethiopia, we felt we had to evacuate now. We did so with regret, however, and we hope that future circumstances permit our return." All 58 Peace Corps volunteers are now in Naivasha, Kenya, or en route there, where the Peace Corps has a training center. The Peace Corps will reassess the situation and make a decision about the future of the Ethiopia program before February 19. At that time, Peace Corps volunteers will be given the option of finishing their service, transferring to another country in Africa, or re-enrolling in the Peace Corps. Tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea has escalated in the past couple of weeks, and heavy fighting began on Saturday over ownership of a portion of the 600-mile border between the two countries. Last June, the Peace Corps suspended its program in Eritrea because of border disputes with Ethiopia. The volunteers serving in Ethiopia were withdrawn from areas near the border as a precautionary measure. Currently, about 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 80 countries in the environment, education, health and nutrition, business, and agriculture. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.