Via Security Council Report comes valuable analysis on the state of play of the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE). The mission’s mandate is set to officially expire on July 31. In practice, UNMEE has been shuttered since this spring, when it was forced to relocate out of the country after Eritrea cut off the mission’s fuel supply.
According to the Security Council Report, Belgium has put forward a proposal that would terminate UNMEE as we know it. In its stead, the Belgium plan recomends: “deployment of a military UN Observer Mission for Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNOMEE), based in Ethiopia, until 31 December. Its mandate would be to report developments that could undermine the peace process promote confidence building measures and help mediate incidents along the border. ”
The Belgian plan obviously downgrades an important mission that kept tenuous peace along a hostile frontier. But downgrading UNMEE simply reflects the reality on the ground; the mission cannot operate when its host country is totally uncooperative. That said, both sides are at fault here. The 2000 Algiers Agreement set up a process by which the status of disputed border territory would be apportioned, but when a neutral boundary commission decided in Eritrean favor, Ethiopia simply ignored the ruling. Thus, today, we have a tense stalemate along the border, with the real possibility that the countries return to war.
Clearly, until this underlying issue is resolved, peace will be hard to to come by. Still, obstructing the UNMEE was deeply problematic as it — at the very least — provided a buffer to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict. Who knows if a small observor mission based in Ethiopia will be able to do the same?