April 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 March 2008
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Expected Council Action
In April, the Council is expected to focus on the future of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) following the mission’s recent evacuation from Eritrea. A report (due at press time) with options and recommendations is expected from the Secretary-General. UNMEE’s mandate expires on 31 July.

Key Recent Developments
A crisis has been building for UNMEE over recent months. It reached a critical point on 1 December when the Eritrean authorities froze fuel deliveries to the mission. The Secretary-General alerted the Council in a letter on 21 January. He indicated that, as a last resort, he would send a letter appealing to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to intervene personally to ensure reinstatement of fuel supplies. On 25 January, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative for UNMEE, Azouz Ennifar, briefed the Council in consultations on the Secretary-General’s regular report on the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The report recommended extending UNMEE’s mandate for only one month in view of the stoppage of fuel supplies.

On 30 January, the Council decided to extend the mandate of UNMEE until 31 July and demanded that the Eritrean government immediately remove restrictions on fuel supplies. The Council apparently decided to extend the mission’s mandate for six months because it did not want to be seen as acquiescing to constraints imposed by Eritrea. It reiterated its demand in a press statement on 4 February and requested Eritrea to facilitate the work of a UN technical assessment mission due in the region that month.

On 1 February, the Secretary-General wrote to inform the Council that he had not received a response to his letter to President Afwerki and indicated that if fuel supplies were not reinstated by 6 February he would be compelled to begin relocation of UNMEE from Eritrea to ensure the mission’s safety. On 11 February, UNMEE’s relocation from Eritrea commenced by land to designated sites in Ethiopia after the assessment mission finalised an emergency relocation plan during its visit to Addis Ababa from 6 to 11 February. The mission was unable to visit Eritrea as the local authorities refused it entry. On 14 February, the UN Secretariat briefed UNMEE troop contributors on the relocation. They, in turn, expressed concern about the deteriorating situation and the safety of UNMEE personnel.

The Council issued a presidential statement on 15 February condemning Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with UNMEE, stating that it held Eritrea responsible for the safety and security of UNMEE while also expressing its determination to consider “further steps.” In closed consultations on 21 February, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, briefed the Council on the relocation process and its difficulties. Eritrea subsequently disputed the UN Secretariat’s reports on the obstacles posed to UNMEE’s relocation in a letter to the president of the Council on 4 March.

On 13 March, the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, updated the Council on the Secretary-General’s 3 March special report on the UNMEE relocation. The report gave an update on the efforts to temporarily relocate UNMEE military personnel from Eritrea to their home countries and Ethiopia, as well as the obstacles posed by the Eritrean authorities to the effort. It also indicated that a residual presence of UNMEE personnel would be retained in Asmara, including the Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission Support, to secure and inventory equipment and materiel left behind and to provide essential liaison services. UNMEE personnel deployed on the Ethiopian side would remain there until the Council decided the future of the mission. The report also highlighted the Secretariat’s various contacts with Eritrea and Ethiopia. In a letter to the president of the Council on 10 March, Eritrea disputed the Secretary-General’s contention that it had obstructed UNMEE’s relocation and claimed that the UN Secretariat’s communications with the government on this matter left much to be desired and had caused the difficulties.

Key Issues
The main issue for the Council is how to avoid a relapse into violent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and whether in light of recent events there is still a useful role for UNMEE. The related underlying issue of compliance with the border demarcation remains to be addressed in this regard. A series of immediate issues include ensuring the safe relocation of all UNMEE personnel and securing the mission’s equipment.

Options before the Council include:

  • credibly addressing the need for Ethiopia to accept fully and without delay the boundary decision as a means finding effective closure to the matter;
  • continuing with ad hoc fragments of UNMEE as an alternative, including relocating the force headquarters and its integral units from Eritrea to Ethiopia, and transforming UNMEE into an observer mission supported by a smaller military-protection force (perhaps with liaison offices in Addis Ababa and Asmara); and
  • encouraging the AU and its members with influence in the region to engage with both parties to find a closure to the border dispute.

Council Dynamics
Council members seem to tacitly acknowledge that they have not dealt effectively with the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea leading to Eritrean frustrations over implementation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) decisions. However, Council members disagree with the methods adopted by Eritrea particularly its tactic of stifling UNMEE’s operations to draw attention to the issue.

A consensus is yet to emerge in the Council on whether UNMEE has a future. The Secretary-General’s report may facilitate its deliberations in that regard. A major concern is whether it will be possible to obtain the consent of both host countries for a modified UN presence in the area in the light of recent developments. Council members are concerned about violent conflict if the Algiers accords (signed in 2000 on the cessation of hostilities) fail. There is also uncertainty about the impact if the moderating effect of a UN presence is removed.

Another major factor is the concern of troop-contributing countries that are unhappy at both the performance of the Security Council and the treatment of UNMEE personnel by Eritrea.

In the long term, most Council members expect to return their focus to the core issue of implementing the Algiers accords and securing Ethiopia’s cooperation.

Belgium is the lead country on the issue in the Council.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1798 (30 January 2008) extended UNMEE’s mandate until 31 July 2008.
  • S/RES/1312 (31 July 2000) established UNMEE.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/7 (15 February 2008) condemning Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with UNMEE which had made the mission’s temporary relocation from the country inevitable, and stated that it held Eritrea responsible for the safety and security of UNMEE.
  • S/PRST/2007/43 (13 November 2007) reiterated the Council’s call on Ethiopia and Eritrea to implement the 2002 boundary decision without delay.

Selected Letters

  • S/2008/172 (10 March 2008) contained Eritrea’s response to the Secretary-General’s report on the relocation of UNMEE.
  • S/2008/156 (4 March 2008) was the letter conveying Eritrea’s response to the UN Secretariat’s reports on Eritrea’s conduct.
  • S/2008/148 (3 March 2008) conveyed a document from the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the UN seeking to refocus attention on the need for the Council to find closure to the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute.
  • S/2008/66 (1 February 2008) was the letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council informing of Eritrea’s continued restrictions of supply of fuel to UNMEE and his intention to send a technical assessment mission to the region.
  • S/2008/54 (29 January 2008) contained Eritrea’s response to the report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea (S/2008/40).
  • S/2007/693 (30 November 2007) contained Eritrea’s response to a letter dated 27 November from Ethiopia’s foreign minister to the President of the EEBC.
  • S/2007/660 (8 November 2007) contained Eritrea’s position on the EEBC.
  • S/2007/580 (27 September 2007) contained Eritrea’s position regarding Ethiopia’s perspective on its perceived breaches of the Algiers Agreement.
  • S/2007/366 (15 June 2007) contained Eritrea’s position on the border conflict.
  • S/2007/350 (8 June 2007) contained Ethiopia’s position on the April progress report of the Secretary-General and 8 May press statement of the Council.
  • S/2006/1036 (28 December 2006) contained Eritrea’s position on the appointment of a special representative.
  • S/2006/890 (15 November 2006) and 905 (20 November 2006) contained respectively Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s position on the EEBC’s intention to convene a meeting on options for moving the demarcation process forward.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2008/145 (3 March 3008) was a special report on the temporary relocation of UNMEE from Eritrea.
  • S/2008/40 (23 January 2008) was the latest regular UNMEE report.
  • S/2007/33 (22 January 2007) included the EEBC report with a response to criticisms by Ethiopia from its November 2006 letter.
  • S/2006/992 (15 December 2006) contained options for UNMEE and the November 2006 EEBC decision.

Selected Secretary-General’s Press Release

  • SC/9240 (4 February 2008) was a press statement demanding immediate resumption of fuel supplies to UNMEE and requesting the Eritrea to facilitate the work of a UN technical assessment mission due in that region.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of Mission

Vacant, pending appointment; acting representative Azouz Ennifar (Tunisia)

Size and Composition

  • Authorised maximum strength: 4,200 military personnel
  • Strength as of 31 January 2008:1,674 military personnel
  • Key troop-contributing countries: India, Jordan and Kenya


Approved budget: 1 July 2007-30 June 2008: $118.99 million


31 July 2000 to present; mandate expires 31 July 2008

Full forecast

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