Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ethiopian peacekeeping troops going to Abyei in Sudan

UN Peacekeepers on Patrol in Abyei. May 24, 2011. Flickr/UN.
The BBC World Service asked me to comment June 20 on the decision earlier in the day by Sudan to accept Ethiopian troops under United Nations mandate to keep the peace in troubled Abyei region along the north-south Sudanese border.

I responded that Ethiopia has had experience in providing peacekeeping troops in the past and is probably one of the few African countries that could make available a brigade (about 4,000 troops) on short notice. Ethiopia troops are acceptable to both North and South Sudan and do not have to come from a long distance, although they may need transport assistance in getting to Abyei.

The BBC announcer suggested that Ethiopian troops might get into the same kinds of problems in Abyei that they encountered in Somalia from 2007 to 2009. While I agreed that they had significant problems in Somalia, this situation is different.

Ethiopia, with the approval of the Somali Transitional Federal Government, made the decision unilaterally to enter Somalia. It was not a UN peacekeeping operation. Abyei is sanctioned and paid for by the UN. The circumstances are entirely different.

It is unlikely the Ethiopian force will encounter the same kinds of problems in Abyei that they faced in Somalia.