The 31st meeting of the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) was held on 16 July 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya. Major-General Rajender Singh, Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), chaired the meeting. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Major-General Yohannes Gebremeskel, Commissioner for Coordination with UNMEE in Ethiopia. Colonel Zecarias Ogbagaber, Acting Commissioner, Commission for Coordination with the UN Peacekeeping Mission (CCPM) in Eritrea led the Eritrean delegation. Senior Military Representative, Brigadier-General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo, represented the African Union.
In his opening statement, the Force Commander thanked the representatives of both countries for their continued support for the MCC process and their cooperation to UNMEE in discharging its mandated tasks. He observed that the overall military situation inside the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the Adjacent Areas had remained relatively stable and peaceful. The Force Commander noted with satisfaction that the Sector level Military Coordination Commissions (SMCC) have been progressing well and have promoted trust, mutual understanding and cooperation among the local military commanders. However, he expressed concern over reports of continuing incidents of violence, noting an increase in the number of cases of cattle rustling in the border area. He also appealed to the Eritrean and Ethiopian delegations to cooperate in addressing these incidents with more vigour in the future.
Addressing the forum, Brigadier-General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo of the African Union expressed satisfaction with the overall security situation. He further suggested that educational campaigns aimed at avoiding untoward incidents should be designed for the people residing in the Temporary Security Zone, as well as the military and militia on both sides. Such mobilisation, he noted, could enhance the peace process.
Major-General Yohannes Gebremeskel of Ethiopia expressed appreciation for UNMEE's continued efforts in maintaining stability and peace inside the TSZ and the Adjacent Areas. He acknowledged that the MCC has been very instrumental in the designing of policy guidelines, while the SMCC has proved to be a very useful mechanism for handling and resolving localized security incidents. Major-General Gebremeskel stressed the need for continued peace and security during the current rainy season, with a view to ensuring the livelihood of farmers in the border area, in the coming year. He insisted that the MCC had a moral obligation to help create a stable environment. To that end, the Ethiopian delegation chief promised full cooperation in addressing issues of mutual concern.
In his statement, Eritrea's Colonel Zecarias Ogbagaber said he did not fully agree with UNMEE's assessment that the military situation was peaceful. He drew attention to various alleged violent incidents, including kidnappings and cattle rustling. Colonel Ogbagaber said urgent measures needed to be taken to prevent these incidents from undermining stability inside the Temporary Security Zone. He also emphasised the need to improve and strengthen the SMCC process so as to address such incidents more effectively in the future. He assured the Force Commander and the MCC that Eritrea was committed to the peace process and would extend its full cooperation to UNMEE in discharging the Mission's mandate.
The meeting was held in a cordial and a constructive atmosphere, with both sides expressing their willingness to cooperate with UNMEE in maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region.
The Force Commander concluded the meeting by thanking both Major-General Yohannes and Colonel Zecarias Ogbagaber for their frank and constructive deliberation. He also expressed appreciation to the AU delegation for its partnership in the MCC process. He said he was confident that with the support of all delegates, the MCC process would continue to demonstrate its value as an indispensable mechanism in the peace process.
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