The collapsing peacekeeping mission along the Eritrean/Ethiopian border is obviously not on most people’s radar. But those of us who care about war and peace should be paying attention, because war might be on the horizon.
Facing a fuel shortage engineered by the Eritrean government, the mission was forced to redeploy across the border to Ethiopia, but was prevented from crossing by the Eritrean Defense Force. The mission, which is about 4,000 strong, was then forced to regroup in Eritrean capitol, Asmara. But even getting there proved to be a problem. According to a new report by the Secretary General, Eritrean Defense Forces turned a number of the trucks back–and even stole some of their fuel.
This all portends poorly for other missions around the globe–particularly for the two missions in neighboring Sudan. Governments can take a look at how Eritrea successfully harassed UNMEE out of its mission, and take notes.
More immediately, though, one has to wonder if Eritrea’s decision to obstruct UNMEE means that Asmara is seeking a military solution to its border dispute with Ethiopia. If so, the resumption of war along the border could be devastating. From 1998 to 2000, trench-warfare between Ethiopia and Eritrea claimed 70,000 lives and displaced millions. Without UNMEE watching the border, it will undoubtedly be easier for war to resume. At this point, to avert that outcome, the Security Council has to force Eritrea to let UNMEE fulfill its mandate so a diplomatic — not military — solution can take hold.
UPDATE: Reader MY writes in: [Your post] neglects to mention the fact that a UN-backed final and binding verdict in regards to the border between the 2 countries was announced back in 2002. The peacekeeping mission was located entirely in Eritrean territory and its mandate expired in conjunction with demarcation. The reason it was not implemented on the ground was due to Ethiopian obstruction. Because of this obstruction, the demarcation body known as the EEBC was forced to demarcate based on coordinates, and thus deemed their work complete. So the question is, will the United Nations Security Council put sufficient pressure on Ethiopia to withdraw from sovereign Eritrean territory?
A very fair point. In previous posts I’ve made clear that Eritrean actions stem in large part from frustration over Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to simply ignore binding arbitration that gave certain disputed territories to Eritrea. Both sides are not without reproach. This helps explain–but does not excuse–Eritrea’s actions.