Global Policy Forum

In Horn of Africa,

Agence France Presse
December 7, 2000

The signs augur well for the UN's peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa, in contrast to the world body's roles in Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Unlike these other African countries, there appears to be a real peace to keep along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. "It is a positive story for Africa which ends the year with a story of peace," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Tuesday, announcing that the Horn conflict, first ignited in May 1998, was over.

Guns on the frontlines have been silent since Asmara and Addis Ababa agreed in June to cease hostilities, and this month, both also said they would sign a comprehensive peace deal in Algiers on December 12. The first military observers of the Horn mission, known as UNMEE, arrived in September and the first of an expected 4,500 blue berets followed in November.

The United Nations could use a peacekeeping success in Africa. Somalia, where in 1993 UN and US troops conducted a humanitarian operation before being forced to leave in 1995 with their tails between their legs, has become a byword for how not to conduct such operations.

In April 1994, when Annan headed the UN's peacekeeping department, appeals for reinforcements made by UN military staff in Kigali over the imminent genocide that eventually claimed between 500,000 and 800,000 lives were not heeded. Since the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Angola expired in 1999, Luanda has rejected all UN proposals to create a new mission to restart the peace process to end the 25-year-old civil war there.

A proposed peacekeeping mission has not been able to deploy in the DRC because the various parties to that war, which include Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, have yet to stop fighting. Annan kicked off his African tour in Sierra Leone, where, despite the presence of the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, there is little sign of an end to a rebel war that began in 1991.

In May, rebels there took 500 blue berets hostage. The force is being scaled down from 13,000 to 8,000 troops amid vain appeals for reinforcements. Speaking of UNMEE in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Annan said: "We got all the troops we needed, unlike other operations."

The UN's current head of peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told journalists accompanying Annan that UNMEE would be a "more classic" operation than other deployments. The Horn war differs from other African conflicts in that it pits two regular armies against each other, rather than involving guerilla movements or rebel groups.

Moreover, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki fought together against Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Miriam, who was ousted in 1991. After more than two years of fighting, "the two sides are tired of war," Annan said on Wednesday.

UNMEE has already made some progress, having late last month opened the first land corridor between the two neighbours. For the time being the route will be restricted to UN personnel. More corridors are expected to be opened this month.

The next test will be whether both armies will honour pledges to provide UNMEE with military maps showing the location of thousands of land mines strewn across the region during the war.

More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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