UNMEE: The stalemate continues
Notwithstanding multiple efforts, including diplomatic initiatives launched by third parties such as the United States and the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) to break the impasse, 2006 began and wound up with Ethiopia and Eritrea still at a stalemate on the demarcation of the border.
In 2006, the Security Council passed three resolutions – 1661, 1681, and 1710 – on the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), reiterating its long-standing call for Eritrea to end its restrictions on the mission and for Ethiopia to take immediate, concrete and unconditional steps to enable demarcation of the border. All three resolutions went unheeded by the two parties.
However, the situation in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and adjacent areas turned volatile and tense in mid-October, when approximately 2,000 troops of the Eritrean Defence Forces, along with tanks, artillery and air defence equipment, entered the TSZ in Sector West.The authorities in Asmara later explained that the troops were inducted in the area to assist with crop harvesting and other development projects in the buffer zone. The international community welcomed assurances from Addis Ababa that Ethiopia would not respond “in kind” to what it considered a “provocative act”.
It was, indeed, a difficult year for UNMEE, which had to forge ahead with its mandate obligations and keep watch over these trying developments in spite of a significant reduction in troop levels down to 2,300 troops, including 230 military observers. This situation was exacerbated by restrictions by the Eritrean authorities, including a continued flight ban on the mission’s helicopters imposed in October 2005 which greatly curtailed UNMEE’s capacity to monitor the TSZ. The adverse impact of the flight ban also rippled across other operations of the mission, such as the public information office.
UNMEE provided humanitarian assistance to communities in its area of responsibility. The mission was particularly active in the domains of de-mining, road maintenance, water supply, technical and financial support for community initiatives, the promotion and protection of human rights, and creating public awareness about the HIV/AIDS scourge.
The impasse in the peace process has been frustrating to the local populace in both countries, but with its humanitarian outreach, UNMEE continues to show them the human face of peacekeeping.
Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.
© United Nations 2007