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Peace Corps volunteers come back to Ethiopia after 9 years to help in AIDS projects

The Peace Corps returns to Ethiopia this weekend after the war sent its volunteers packing nearly 10 years ago.

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

The Peace Corps Africa director, Henry McKoy said 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 wave arrived in 1962, more than 3,500 volunteers 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 western Oromia region and in its northern Amhara region.

Africa is the Peace Corps largest hub of activity, with 2,800 volunteers in 25 countries making up more than a third of the Peace Corps worldwide volunteer force of 7,800.

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