March 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 24 February 2006
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AFRICA

Ethiopia/Eritrea

Expected Council Action
The Council will renew the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) by mid-March. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether a technical rollover will be needed, or whether there will be radical changes to UNMEE’s size and mandate. Much now depends on the outcome of the US diplomatic initiative.

Key Facts
Since early January, Council action has been on hold for a US diplomatic initiative to defuse the crisis between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The initiative has mainly focused on organising a meeting of the Boundary Commission (EEBC) with the parties scheduled for early March with a view of getting to the crux of the problem-Ethiopia’s non-compliance with the EEBC ruling. The EEBC has not met with the parties for over two years, having closed its field offices a year ago. Ethiopia has declined a previous attempt to organise a meeting with the EEBC in February 2005.

In preparation for that, a meeting of the “witnesses” to the 2000 Algiers Agreement-the US, the EU, the UN and the AU-was held on 22 February. The main purpose was to show the unity of the “witnesses” in supporting the EEBC and the final demarcation of the border. A statement accepted at that meeting was welcomed by the Security Council in a presidential statement which called on both sides to cooperate with the EEBC to implement its decisions without further delay.

In another ominous development, adding to tensions caused by previous Eritrean moves against UNMEE, the authorities arrested 25 national UNMEE staff in mid-February.

Key Issues
The key issue is how much time to give for the US initiative and the results of the EEBC meeting.

If no progress is made on the demarcation, it seems inevitable that Council members will have to reduce the size and make changes to the mandate of UNMEE. The Secretary-General’s January report framed the issues and available options.

Another key issue is how to respond to the restrictions Eritrea has placed on UNMEE, bearing in mind the fact that the Council had threatened measures in resolution 1640, even before the latest round of hostile acts by the authorities.

Council Dynamics
At this stage there is a good deal of support for the US approach of focusing on the substantive problem-the delimitation-rather than the symptoms, the Eritrean restrictions on UNMEE.

There is some willingness to adopt a technical rollover to allow some further room for the US diplomatic initiative. But Council members are aware that time is running and, if the initiative does not bear fruit, UNMEE’s mandate and size will have to be modified. They are very conscious in this regard of the concerns of troop contributing countries (TCCs).

As described in our February 2006 Forecast Report, a popular option, if downsizing becomes inevitable, is that UNMEE’s Asmara headquarters be transferred to Addis Ababa while maintaining troops in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), a buffer area along the border on the Eritrean side.

But some are concerned that this carries risks of further restrictions on UNMEE, especially if the Council overlooks Asmara’s previous actions and rejection of previous Council demands. In light of this, there will be strong advocacy for reducing UNMEE to a small observer mission. There will also be support for imposing deadlines on the parties which, if not observed, will lead to UNMEE’s reduction to a liaison mission or even withdrawal.

Options
Council members have the option to adopt a technical rollover to allow some room for the EEBC talks to develop. However, should there be no progress, the options outlined by the Secretary-General still stand:

  • maintaining the status quo;
  • relocating the Asmara UNMEE headquarters to Addis Ababa, while keeping troops in the TSZ and a liaison office in Asmara;
  • reducing UNMEE to an observer mission, (a) either on both sides of the TSZ or (b) exclusively on the Ethiopian side;
  • deploying a preventive force in Ethiopia;
  • reducing UNMEE to a liaison mission; or
  • withdrawing UNMEE.

Underlying Problems
It is unclear whether progress will be achieved at the EEBC meeting.

Eritrea has already questioned its usefulness, stating that what is needed is the implementation of the delimitation decision and not further dialogue. This is consistent with Eritrean reluctance to engage in anything that may be interpreted as willingness to revisit the decision.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, calls for dialogue on the demarcation, which it insists is not tantamount to revisiting the delimitation decision. It has presented a five-point proposal that includes acceptance, “in principle”, of the delimitation decision, but states that implementation should be made “in a manner consistent with the promotion of sustainable peace and brotherly ties between the two peoples”. But the concrete implications of this position on the demarcation are unclear.

The country has also come under intense international pressure after a recent crackdown on the opposition. Key donors, including traditional supporters of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi such as the UK, have cut back direct aid. Others, such as the US, have refrained from doing so given the importance of their ties with Ethiopia.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1640 (23 November 2005) demanded troop redeployment and the lifting of restrictions on UNMEE.
  • S/RES/1344 (15 March 2001) stressed the fact that the peace agreements link UNMEE’s termination to the demarcation.
  • S/RES/1320 (15 September 2000) increased UNMEE and authorised it to monitor the TSZ.
  • S/RES/1312 (31 July 2000) established UNMEE.
Selected Presidential Statements
  • S/PRST/2006/10 (24 February 2006) welcomed the “witnesses” meeting.
  • S/PRST/2005/62 (14 December 2005) agreed to temporarily relocate some of UNMEE’s staff.
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2006/126 (24 February 2006) contained the Witnesses’ statement.
  • S/2006/1 (3 January 2006) contained options for the future of UNMEE.
  • S/2005/142 (7 March 2005) contained the EEBC’s appraisal of the stalling of the demarcation, a historical summary of the process until that date and the 2002 Demarcation Directions.
  • S/2004/973 Add. 1 (27 December 2004) contained the five-point Ethiopian proposal.
  • S/2003/1186(19 December 2003) detailed Ethiopia’s refusal to allow demarcation and responses from Eritrea and the EEBC.
Selected Letters
  • S/2005/774 (9 December 2005) was a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia indicating Addis Ababa’s position on demarcation.
  • S/2005/737 (25 November 2005) contained Eritrea’s criticisms of resolution 1640.
  • S/2005/688 (31 October 2005) expressed Asmara’s frustration with the lack of demarcation.
  • S/2000/1183 (12 December 2000) contained the Algiers Peace Agreement.
  • S/2000/601 (19 June 2000) contained the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

For the historical background please refer to the February 2006 Forecast Report.

 

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of Mission
Legwaila Joseph Legwaila (Botswana)
Size and Composition of Mission
  • Authorized maximum strength: 4,200 troops.
  • Strength as of 28 December 2005: 3,249 military personnel.
  • Key troop contributing countries: India, Jordan and Kenya.
Cost
Approved budget: 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $185.99 million (gross)
Duration
31 July 2000 to present

Useful Additional Sources

  • Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission website
  • Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission website
  • Eritrean Ministry of Information website


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