Last week saw the announcement of some unfortunate news regarding the geopolitical hotspot that is the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The United Nations peacekeeping force, UNMEE (UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea)has been present in the region since July of 2000, after the June 2000 cessation of hostilities that ended the conflict. This will most likely leave a significant peace force vacuum in the region, further raising tensions.
A Reuters update from last week describes the action in more detail:
“The U.N. Security Council voted on Wednesday to disband its peacekeeping mission to the volatile border between Eritrea and Ethiopia after Eritrea forced out most of the U.N. troops. The mandate for the 1,700-strong force expires on Thursday. The council unanimously approved a resolution drafted by Belgium that calls for the mission to be terminated and all peacekeeping personnel to be withdrawn.”
This is problematic for several reasons. Surprisingly, Ethiopia and Eritrea possess Africa’s two largest armies.
What does all this mean for LSN Ethiopia? The possibility of renewed conflict raises the specter of a potential marked increase in conflict survivors. A fairly obvious but ominous equation. As Ethiopia struggles to meet the basic needs (food, water, shelter) of large sectors of its population (demographics and resources will be the topic of next week’s post), any kind of war footing that either country takes could have drastic consequences for the general population. Additionally, LSN Ethiopia has come to see veterans of combat as a crucial Survivor group. Many injured and disabled veterans fell through the cracks in the system after serving their country courageously. LSN hopes to expand its services to these groups and also one day expand into the areas directly affected by the border tensions. These areas are heavily mined and pose huge logistical problems for the people inhabiting both sides of the border area.
Just as back in the United States there is a long history of Vietnam Veterans, Gulf war veterans and now current Iraq and Afghanistan, victims coming home with major psychological and physical impediments to their health, the same process continues to take place here in Ethiopia.
Hopefully, further peacebuildings steps will be implemented in the wake of the UN withdrawal but international experts are skeptical.
Turning away from conflict and towards peace, we just finished watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics here at the office. Beijing put on quite a show, very impressive. For me, nothing but respect for China right now and I hope the games go smoothly. All of Ethiopia will be watching and hoping for more gold medals in the long distance running events.
For more info on the conflict and tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, check out this International Crisis Group report:
Next week: more on Ethiopia’s struggle balancing demographics and resources.
Posted By Lucas Wolf
Posted Aug 8th, 2008