Fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted in May 1998, as a result
of a border dispute. The Secretary-General immediately contacted
the leaders of both countries, urging restraint and offering assistance
in resolving the conflict peacefully. He requested Ambassador Mohamed
Sahnoun (Algeria), his Special Envoy in Africa, to assist the mediation
efforts of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) .
At the OAU summit in Algiers in July 1999, the two parties accepted
a document - the Modalities for the Implementation of the OAU Framework
Agreement. In this document, Eritrea committed itself to "redeploy
its forces outside the territories they occupied after 6 May 1998."
Ethiopia committed itself to "redeploy, thereafter, its forces from
positions taken after 6 February and which were not under Ethiopian
administration before 6 May 1998." After further consultations with
the parties concerned, Mr. Ahmed Ouyahia, Special Envoy of the Current
Chairman of OAU, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun and Mr. Anthony Lake,
representative of the United States President, reviewed and finalized
a document entitled: Technical Arrangements for the Implementation
of the OAU Framework Agreement and its Modalities. The document
called for the establishment of a Neutral Commission to determine
the precise areas from which the two sides were to redeploy. The
Technical Arrangements provided for the deployment of inter alia
military observers to verify the envisaged redeployments. The document
also called for demilitarization and delimitation of the entire
common border between the two countries. Eritrea announced its acceptance
of the document. Ethiopia reserved its position and requested clarifications,
while reaffirming its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the
conflict. The international mediation continued, but tension along
the border remained very high and there was fear that hostilities
could resume and possibly spread, uprooting more people who thus
far had not been affected directly by the conflict.
Security Council Mission to the Region
As part of its tour of Africa, the seven-member special mission
of the United Nations Security Council visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
and Asmara, Eritrea, on 8 and 9 May 2000, respectively. The mission,
which was headed by the Permanent Representative of the United States,
Richard Holbrooke, included: Jean-David Levitte (France); Moctar
Ouane (Mali); Martin Andjaba (Namibia); A.Peter van Walsum (Netherlands);
Said Ben Mustapha (Tunisia); and Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom).
The mission held talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia
on 8 May, and on the following day with President Isaias Afwerki
of Eritrea. The discussions concentrated on ways to find a peaceful
solution to the conflict and to avoid renewal of the fighting.
Fighting Erupts Again
Despite all efforts, the fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia
erupted again on 12 May 2000. By its resolution 1297, adopted on
the same day, the Security Council expressed its concern with the
renewed fighting and noted that the new outbreak of violence had
a serious humanitarian implication for the civilian population of
both countries. The Secretary-General issued a statement deeply
deploring the resumption of large-scale fighting. He urgently appealed
to both countries to cease hostilities immediately and to return
to the process of negotiation.
Sanctions Imposed on Both Countries
On 17 May 2000, Security Council adopted resolution 1298 by which
it imposed measures aimed at preventing the supply of weapons or
arms-related assistance to the two countries. The Council demanded
the earliest possible reconvening, without preconditions, of substantive
peace talks, under the auspices of OAU, on the basis of the Framework
Agreement and its Modalities and of the work conducted by the OAU
so far, which would conclude a peaceful definitive settlement of
According to that resolution, "all States shall prevent" the sale
or supply to Eritrea and Ethiopia of weapons, ammunition, military
vehicles, equipment and spare parts, as well as any provision to
the two countries of technical aid or training related to the manufacture
or use of arms.
As of March 2000, it was estimated that over 370,000 Eritreans
and approximately 350,000 Ethiopians had been affected by the war.
The humanitarian situation in parts of Ethiopia was exacerbated
by the severe drought, which led to the emergence of a major food
crisis with almost 8 million people affected. UN humanitarian agencies
prepared programmes for both countries, aimed at mobilizing international
resources for multi-sector emergency interventions.
On 31 March 2000, the Secretary-General appointed Ms. Catherine
Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), as
his Special Envoy on the Drought in the Horn of Africa. Ms. Bertini
was asked to travel to the Horn of Africa and to raise public awareness
of the deteriorating situation and the growing threat of famine.
She also was to seek commitments from governments and other parties
to the conflict to provide secure access for humanitarian agencies,
examine the country-specific and regional dimensions of the crisis,
and address logistical concerns.
In a parallel development, on 7 April, the Secretary-General announced
the establishment of a task force to deal with the United Nations
response to emergency and long-term food needs in the Horn of Africa.
The Task Force on the United Nations Response to Long-term Food
Security, Agriculture Development and Related Aspects in the Horn
of Africa is chaired by the Food and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations (FAO). Ms. Bertini visited the Horn of Africa,
including Eritrea and Ethiopia, on 10-19 April 2000. After her survey
of the region and discussions with senior Government officials there,
the Secretary-General's Special Envoy said that famine in the Horn
of Africa could be averted with "swift" international response.
She noted five priority areas: water, basic medicines, food aid,
security and technical support in transport, and infrastructure
to ensure distribution of aid. According to Ms. Bertini, "the international
community has a rare opportunity of prevention"; she added, however,
that "timing is absolutely critical" to prevent a disaster.
With the resumption of fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea in
May 2000, the situation in the region became even more critical.
On 19 May 2000, the United Nations Secretary-General said he was
"deeply alarmed" about the impact of the renewed hostilities on
the already critical humanitarian situation of hundred of thousands
of innocent people in both countries. In a statement by his Spokesman,
the Secretary-General called the large-scale military effort "tragic",
with large numbers of civilians fleeing the fighting in Eritrea
adding to the humanitarian challenge in the region. In his statement,
the Secretary-General endorsed the appeals from the international
community for an immediate halt to the fighting and the resumption
of peace. He also expressed gratitude to donors who had continued
to provide generously to the urgent needs of innocent victims, and
hoped that such assistance would remain forthcoming while a durable
solution to the crisis was pursued.
Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities
In the meantime, the proximity talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea,
conducted under the chairmanship of the Minister of Justice of Algeria
and the Personal Envoy of the Current Chairman of OAU, resumed in
Algiers on 30 May. Those talks culminated in the signing, on 18
June 2000, of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities between
Ethiopia and Eritrea by the Foreign Ministers of both countries,
under the auspices of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria,
in his capacity as the Current Chairman of OAU. The talks were conducted
with the assistance of the Personal Envoy of the Presidency of the
European Union, Rino Serri, and the representative of the President
of the United States, Anthony Lake.
The Agreement committed the parties to an immediate cessation
of hostilities. The parties also reaffirmed their acceptance of
the OAU Framework Agreement and its Modalities. Under the Agreement,
the parties called upon the United Nations, in cooperation with
OAU, to establish a peacekeeping operation to assist in the implementation
of the Agreement.
United Nations Mission Established
In a 30 June 2000 report (S/2000/643)
to the Security Council, the Secretary-General described the Agreement
as the first but extremely vital step towards the restoration of
peace between the two countries. He informed the Council about his
intention to dispatch an "appropriate" number of liaison officers
to each capital, to be followed by the deployment of a military
observer group. It was envisaged that up to a total of 100 United
Nations military observers would gradually be deployed to each country
over the next two months, pending the establishment of a United
Nations peacekeeping operation.
On 31 June, the Security Council, by its resolution
1312 (2000), decided to establish the United Nations Mission
in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) consisting of up to 100 military
observers and the necessary civilian support staff in anticipation
of a peacekeeping operation subject to future authorization. The
Mission's mandate would be to undertake the following tasks: establish
and maintain liaison with the parties; visit the parties' military
headquarters and other units in all areas of operation of the mission
deemed necessary by the Secretary-General; establish and put into
operation the mechanism for verifying the cessation of hostilities;
prepare for the establishment of the Military Coordination Commission
provided for in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement; and assist
in planning for a future peacekeeping operation.
The Secretary-General was asked to continue planning for a peacekeeping
operation and to begin to take the administrative measures for assembling
it, subject to future Council authorization.
Reporting to the Security Council on 9 August, the Secretary-General
outlined the mandate of the expanded UNMEE and recommended a total
of 4,200 military personnel, including 220 military observers, three
infantry battalions and the necessary support units, to monitor
the ceasefire and border delineation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The report, based on the findings of the United Nations reconnaissance
mission to the region, recommended that with the poor infrastructure
and difficult terrain, the mission should use planes and helicopters,
as well as ground forces and armoured personnel carriers. UNMEE
would be composed of "political, military, public information, mine
action and administrative components, and include a mechanism for
coordination of its activities with those of the humanitarian community".
A Special Representative who would have overall authority and maintain
close contact with the political and military leadership of the
Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as OAU, would head
the Mission and the United Nations country teams in both countries.
Offices in Addis Ababa and Asmara would be complemented by regional
headquarters based in Mendefera, western Eritrea, and Mekele, northern
The Mission would be deployed in three phases. The first phase,
already under way, would involve the despatch of liaison officers
to each capital. Under the second phase, up to 100 military observers
along with necessary civilian support staff would be deployed. In
phase three, the full peacekeeping operation would be deployed once
it was authorized by the Security Council. By resolution 1320 of
15 September 2000, the Security Council welcomed the Secretary-General's
report of 9 August 2000 and authorized the deployment within UNMEE
of up to 4,300 troops until 15 March 2001.
Comprehensive Peace Agreement Signed
In the meantime, the parties continued negotiations aimed at a
final and comprehensive peace settlement of the conflict. The talks,
facilitated by President Bouteflika of Algeria, resulted in the
signing on 12 December 2000 in Algiers of a comprehensive Peace
Agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Speaking at the signing
ceremony, the Secretary-General welcomed the Agreement as a "victory
for the voice of reason, for the power of diplomacy and for the
recognition that neither one of those countries -- nor the continent
as a whole -- can afford another decade, another year, another day
of conflict". "The United Nations and the international community
are determined to work closely with the parties to ensure the implementation
of both the 18 July Agreement and the one signed today, so that
lasting peace can be achieved and that reconstruction can begin,"
the Secretary-General said. He emphasized that UNMEE would accomplish
its tasks expeditiously. "We have a job to do, we shall do it effectively
and efficiently, and then we will withdraw," he said. The Secretary-General,
who visited Ethiopia and Eritrea prior to the signing of the Agreement,
also called attention to the humanitarian crisis facing both countries.
By signing the 12 December Peace Agreement, the parties have undertaken
to "permanently terminate military hostilities between themselves"
and to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other.
The Agreement, among other things, requires the establishment of
a neutral Boundary Commission to "delimit and demarcate the colonial
treaty border", foresees the creation of a neutral Claims Commission
which would decide on claims from either side, and calls for an
independent investigation into the origins of the conflict.