Amazingly, Eritrea has managed in a few short weeks to squander the high moral ground it enjoyed as a result of the Boundary Commission ruling in its favor, by taking out its legitimate frustration over delays in implementation of the ruling against the UN peacekeeping operation on the border, UNMEE. (See our December Forecast for details)
Eritrea’s increasingly bellicose statements and actions against the UN, its failure so far to comply with resolution 1640 (2005) and its refusal to even talk to envoys, have proved counter-productive.
By contrast, Ethiopia has complied with Council demands to redeploy its troops.
The re-imposition of sanctions against Eritrea, once the 3 January deadline set by the Council in resolution 1640 has passed, is now likely.
Eritrea’s position is significantly further weakened by the decision released on 19 December 2005 by the Claims Commission set up under the 2000 Algiers Agreement, to arbitrate compensation claims in respect of the 1998 hostilities. The Commission has ruled that Eritrea had no lawful justification in terms of self defence for attacking Ethiopia and as a result must pay compensation to Ethiopia for the losses it incurred in the war. The extent of the compensation remains to be determined by the Commission as does the compensation which is payable by Ethiopia to Eritrea for breaches of international humanitarian law by Ethiopian forces on which the Commission also ruled.
At time of publication the Council was considering drastic revisions to the UNMEE mandate and deployment. Both the UN troop contributors and the Council are angry at Eritrea’s attempt to dictate which countries’ personnel may serve in UNMEE and are determined not to allow such a precedent to be set. Despite the Council’s very strong response in S/PRST/2005/62, Eritrea has remained obdurate, even refusing to meet with UN Under Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno. However, withdrawal of the force altogether is most unlikely. Council members are apprehensive that this course could be enough to release the hair trigger currently restraining the parties from open war.
The net result is likely to be a withdrawal of UNMEE from current positions, which actually benefit Eritrea, to positions inside Ethiopia. The force will then serve as a preventative trip wire, essentially a benefit to Ethiopia.
In the short term, in light of recent events, Eritrea now runs the risk of being branded the aggressor should any hostilities occur. Looking to the long term, however, the Council is likely to want to try to keep doors open in Asmara for the Secretary-General at least. And it will not want Ethiopia to profit from its failure to comply with international legal obligations. Some reflection of these points is likely to be part of the mix as the Council works through this thorny problem in January.
Great Lakes Initiative
The regional dimensions of the security issues in the Great Lakes region have long been recognised but there seems to be a new energy and enthusiasm for integrating the Council’s approach.
Tanzania, as Council President in January, is promoting the idea of a Ministerial open Council meeting to develop some new thinking about the approach the Council should take to the DRC situation and related issues of concern to Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.
In addition, this initiative is aimed at exploring some innovative ideas on how to develop this new interest in a regional approach. The practical implementation of resolutions 1625 (2005) “Conflict prevention in Africa” and 1631 (2005) “Cooperation between the UN and regional organisations” to the specific needs of the Great Lakes region is one possibility under serious examination. New ideas about integrating peacekeeping capacity and standby capacity also seem likely to be discussed.
Cross border situations involving groups like the LRA in northern Uganda and associated humanitarian and protection issues will also be addressed in the open debate. It will be sensitive. Uganda is opposed to a country specific focus. But the regional framework offers a potentially more pragmatic and productive approach to this issue, provided the process is given time, outcomes are well prepared and all concerned approach it with a willingness to compromise and resolve the issues. Various options have been proposed, including by Under Secretary-General Jan Egeland, and by Canada.
Finally, both the DRC and Uganda will be contemplating how to respond to the 19 December 2005 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in a case of regional importance, DRC v. Uganda. In its decision the Court found that Uganda’s military intervention in the DRC in the late 1990s and early 2000s had violated the principle of the non use of force in international relations and that its armed forces had committed serious violations of international humanitarian law. Also it found that the DRC had violated international law by attacking the Uganda embassy. The Great Lakes meeting in January has potential for both sides to demonstrate that this phase of regional history is past and that they are now committed to working out the implications of the ICJ ruling in a cooperative way. They will be conscious that there will be severe downsides for both sides if they seek to use the meeting to inflame the situation.
The issues underlying resolutions 1625 and 1631 are also likely to come to the fore in January, at least in informal discussions between Council members, on Darfur. The UN and AU have sent a joint mission to Sudan to consider how to carry forward their respective mandates in Sudan. The task of protection of civilians in Darfur continues to be a heavy one. Options for supporting AMIS will need to be explored. And, as the peace talks progress in Abuja, the possibility of a more robust operation perhaps involving both the AU and UN, with the bulk of the resources funded by assessed contributions, may become an important element in providing the security guarantees necessary to clinch the deal.
Issues being monitored closely, but not necessarily on the January Work Programme, will include:
Elections will take place on 8 January and in view of the history of violence the Council will be monitoring progress closely. Issues looming in the background include not only the state of electoral preparations, but also respect for the rule of law by the transitional Government. The dismissal of members of the Judiciary, in response to a Supreme Court ruling that the Government did not like, is troubling many observers. The Council, preoccupied with events in other parts of the world, has let this issue ride for now. But this sort of action is a flagrant violation of resolution 1542.
The Council will be watching closely Syrian cooperation levels with the UNIIIC during January, especially in light of the transition to a new Commissioner. But there is no reason at this stage to expect any interim report. Next steps await recommendations from the Secretary-General under resolution 1644 (2005) on three issues relating to the Hariri investigation:
the appointment of a new Commissioner to replace Detlev Mehlis;
the options for UNIIIC assistance to Lebanon in respect of investigations of other recent terrorist assassinations in the country; and
possibilities for international assistance with the trial of suspects.
With respect to assistance to Lebanon, the Council and the UN Secretariat are conscious that a major issue will be to find appropriate models that are genuinely supportive, but do not represent an open ended commitment. The UN is aware that Lebanon is not the only country that could justify claims for such assistance and it is concerned not to appear unbalanced or to become overly intrusive.
Inauguration of the newly elected President is scheduled for 16 January. The defeated candidate George Weah has withdrawn threats to disrupt the process. But, given all that has been invested by the UN in Liberian peace and reconciliation, the Council will be ready to react very quickly if the situation deteriorates.
Now that a Prime Minister has been appointed, the Council will be watching for real progress on the road map towards elections in 2006 as set out in resolution 1633 (2005). The mandate for UNOCI will be renewed, but the difficult issues for the Council to grapple with during January will be around the size of the force and the humanitarian/human rights context in which it must operate. The report of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Méndez, is likely to present some challenges which both the Council and the AU mediators will find uncomfortable. The expected recommendations from the Secretary-General that the force needs to be expanded may be unpopular with some membersparticularly the US.
The international conference in London on Afghanistan in late January, while offstage as far as the Council is concerned, will certainly not be out of mind. The conference will be will be an important prelude to Council consideration of the situation in February/March. And in addition the Council will receive in January the quarterly International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) report.
As reported in our December issue, a report of the Secretary-General is still awaited on Justice and Reconciliation. It remains unclear when this will appear.
The January Work Programme will also include a number of issues which are expected to proceed with relatively little controversy, such as:
Georgia (renewal of UNOMIG mandate)
Western Sahara (renewal of MINURSO mandate)
Lebanon/Israel (renewal of UNIFIL mandate)
Middle East Consultations (The Palestinian elections on 25 January is likely to make the regular monthly briefing of particular significance)
Various Sanctions related issues will arise, including:
Somalia (report of Monitoring Group )
DRC (renewal of mandate of Group of Experts)
Appointment of new Chairs to various Committees
Possible reviving of the activities of the Council’s Working Group on General Issues Related to Sanctions.