Eritrea + 1 more

UNMEE media briefing notes 16 Jun 2005

A near verbatim transcript of the press briefing held by the Spokeswoman and Chief of Public Information, Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainté in Addis Ababa, via videoconference linking participants in Addis Ababa and Asmara. Also present at the briefing in Asmara was the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG Asmara,) Mr. Joël W. Adechi and UNMEE Acting Chief- of- Staff Colonel Raman Dhawan.


During the week, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, (SRSG) Legwaila Joseph Legwaila held consultations with stakeholders in the peace process in Addis Ababa.

On 9 June, the SRSG met with the Deputy Head of the British Mission in Ethiopia, Ms. Debora Fisher, and exchanged views with her on the stalemate in the peace process and possible initiatives aimed at breaking the impasse.

On 9 June the SRSG addressed a Town Hall meeting for the UNMEE staff in Addis Ababa, during which he called upon all staff to remain calm in the post-election period in Ethiopia.

On 10 June, the SRSG met with His Excellency Rob Vermaas, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ethiopia and exchanged views on the peace process, on recent developments, and on the post-election situation in Ethiopia. The Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ethiopia briefed the SRSG on the actions the international community, in particular the European Union, was taking in order to ensure peace and stability in Ethiopia.

General Overview

The general situation in the Mission area remains militarily stable. There have been no significant changes in troop locations or dispositions. UNMEE conducted 626 ground and 24 air reconnaissance patrols throughout the Area of Responsibility (AOR).

In all sectors, UNMEE peacekeepers continued to provide medical assistance to the local population, along with supplies of bulk water to civilian communities in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the Adjacent Areas. Approximately 285,000 litres of water was supplied to the civilian communities during the past week.

Mine Action

The Bangladesh Engineering Company, working in Sector West, probed an area of 9,535 square meters along the Shilalo to Barentu Road.

The Kenyan Humanitarian De-mining Company, working in Sector West, probed manually an area of 7,154 square metres and 20,100 square metres in the Sheshebit and Grat Mariam minefields respectively.

MECHEM (the civilian contractor) continued its demining operations and manually cleared an area of 22.3 kilometers along various feeder roads in the general areas of Om Hajer, Humera and Maleba. They also cleared an area of 14,000 square meters and 26,578 square meters in the Sheshebit and Grat Mariam minefields respectively.


On Tuesday, 14 June 2005, the MACC Programme Manager Phil Lewis accompanied UNMEE Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier General, Abraham M. Wambugu, on a field visit to Shilalo (Sector West) to monitor and assess the integrated demining operations of the Kenyan demining contingent.

The Regional Liaison Officer for Sector West traveled to the International Mine Action Training Center (IMATC) in Nairobi, Kenya, where he will be conducting a 'Training-of-Trainers' course on basic integrated demining operations for the new rotation of Kenyan deminers, who will be deployed to UNMEE in October 2005.

The MACC Programme Manager met with UNMEE's new Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG), Joel W. Adechi, on Friday, 10 June 2005. The MACC Programme Manager gave the DSRSG a preliminary introduction to the UNMEE MACC programme, which will be followed in the near future with a more in-depth briefing by the MACC Operations Section, and a visit to the demining operations in the field.

Meeting and Visits.

During the week, the Force Commander, Major General Rajender Singh, visited various posts and Team Sites in Sector West.

On 10 June 05, the 9th Sector Military Coordination Commission meeting was held at Zela Ambessa in Sector Centre in a cordial atmosphere.


On 10 June, the Chief of the Human Rights Office Mamadi Diakite, paid a courtesy call on the Director of Cabinet of the Eritrean President's Office, Yemane Gebremeskel.

On 11 and 12 June 2005, a team from the UNMEE/Human Rights Office conducted interviews with some 160 people (mostly women, elderly people and minors) of Eritrean origin, who had been voluntarily repatriated from Ethiopia to Eritrea under the ICRC, at the transit camp in Mendefera. The current living conditions in the transit camp, as observed by Human Rights Officers during their visit, were found to be satisfactory.

Questions and Answers

Spokeswoman: We welcome to our briefing today, our new Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, who will be based in Asmara,

Mr. Joel Adechi. He has arrived in the Mission area to pick up his duties. We are distributing his bio to you now. We had hoped to send you his bio with his official photograph. You will probably have that later this afternoon when we send you the transcript. He is no stranger to the UN, as you will see. He is very experienced diplomat and I am sure you will be seeing more of him. I would just like to ask him to say a few words to the journalists, as an introduction.

DSRSG Asmara, Joël W. Adechi: I just want to say hi to everyone and to say that I am happy to be here because it is, for me, a good opportunity to gain insights in the UN peacekeeping work on the ground and (to fully appreciate) mainly the substantive linkages between peace, security and development. I am sure that I will have the opportunity to interact with you and I am expecting to be able to satisfy what you are expecting also from us and from UNMEE. Thank you.

Q [from Addis Ababa]: Gail, my question is concerning the visit of the Human Rights Officer to the Director of the Cabinet of the Eritrean President. Has it got to do with the complaints, if any, of the living conditions of the recently repatriated Eritreans from Ethiopia, also mentioned in the briefing notes?

Spokeswoman: No, it doesn't have anything to do with that specifically. It was a courtesy call because the Chief Human Rights Officer wanted to discuss the human rights programme in UNMEE with the Director of Cabinet, so he would be au fait with what the Human Rights Office is doing in Eritrea and what UNMEE's programme here is all about. I think we mentioned sometime ago, that there are some technical cooperation programmes that Human Rights is trying to incorporate as part of the new Human Rights reforms throughout the UN system. I think he just wanted to familiarize them with some of these new aspects of human rights work.

Q [from Asmara]: This question is concerning the transit camp in Mendefera; do you know how long this camp is supposed to be in place, this transit camp?

Spokeswoman: No, off the top of my head I do not know; I will have to ask the Human Rights Officer.

[We are informed by the Chief Human Rights Officer that the transit camp is usually a reception camp put in place for a period of at least four days during which time returnees are processed by the ICRC. After the processing period those in the camps are free to leave and be reunited with their families.]

Q [from Addis Ababa]: Does the post-election situation in Ethiopia have any effect on the peace process that UNMEE is conducting?

Spokeswoman: Does it have any direct effect at the moment? No, except that we do work in both capitals and as long as the situation remains calm, the peace process continues. Perhaps because the minds of everyone here at the moment are more concerned with the election than with the peace process, perhaps in that sense there may be an effect, but I don't think that it will slow down the peace process since the SRSG has been here in the post-election period and continues to shuttle back and forth and speak with the stakeholders here. So in that sense no, it hasn't affected the peace process.

Q [from Asmara]: Can you tell me more about this Military Coordination Committee meeting that was held in Zalambesa?

Spokeswoman: I think you know that the Force, besides chairing the MCC (Military Coordination Commission) meetings have introduced now meetings at the Sector level. These meetings are supposed to help with resolving problems at the Sector level between the local authorities, the Sector Commanders in the Sectors and the Force. They have been very useful so far. So they have been holding them fairly regularly and this is just another one of those meetings. On specifics, I would have to refer you to the Acting Chief of Staff.

Acting Chief of Staff: As Gail has already mentioned, these Sector Military Coordination Committee meetings are held at the sector level and they are chaired by the Sector Commander. This one was the 9th Sector Military Coordination Committee meeting and as usual it was held in a very professional, very cordial and very friendly atmosphere between the two sides. The main issues, which were discussed over there, were essentially related to cattle rustling, inadvertent straying across the boundary and cooperation between the two sides.

For additional information contact

The UNMEE Public Information Offices
Addis Ababa, phone: 251-1-726895
Asmara, phone: 291-1-151908