Date: Monday, 28 January 2019
The Ethiopian embassy in the UK has apologised for posting a picture of Dubai marathon supporters holding up an “erroneous” map of the country that failed to depict Eritrea as a separate state.
Thousands of fans lined the course of the gruelling race on Friday to cheer on athletes as they took on the 26.2 mile run.
Among the supporters was a large group of ecstatic Ethiopian residents who were left stunned by their national hero Getaneh Molla setting a new course record in the men’s race.
Many celebrated his victory by waving the Ethiopian national flag, and one held up a map of Ethiopia that mistakenly incorporated Eritrea.
A photo of the crowd and map - later shared by the Ethiopian embassy in Britain - was met with outrage from Eritreans, with one Twitter user describing the image as a “deliberate and failed attempt to test our nationalism".
Writing on Facebook, another said: “Use the correct maps. We paid [a] heavy price, thousand[s] of martyrs for our independence and we are ready to do it again.
“Ethiopians should understand that and it’s a red line to us. Use the correct map Ethiopians.”
“We realise that this post has caused offence and have subsequently taken it down. It was a genuine mistake and we regret its posting and any offence it inadvertently caused.
“We deeply apologise to all and have already taken measures to ensure that this does not happen again in future.”
Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993, after a 30-year battle that followed the country’s annexation in the 1960s.
Although the separation between the two countries was initially amicable, tensions flared in 1998 and the following conflict claimed some 100,000 lives. The disputed border town which proved the catalyst to the war was later awarded to Eritrea by a United Nations-appointed independent commission. But ill-feeling persisted between the two nations, leading to continued occasional flare-ups.
That all changed last April, when new Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, took office, signalling his wish for better relations with Eritrea. He later said Ethiopia would accept the boundary decision, which led to a formal end of the decades-long conflict last July.
Mr Abiyand the Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki were honoured with the UAE’s highest civil honour in July when the two former rivals met in Abu Dhabi.