|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-315770 Eritrea-Border (L)
/// ENGLISH EDITORS, SOME TEXT HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE 3RD GRAF. ///
INTRO: The head of the United Nations mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea concedes that some U-N peacekeeping troops patrolling the contested border have misbehaved, but he insists that a recent broadcast by the Eritrean government describing serious allegations of misconduct by the mission is unfair and in some cases exaggerated. Cathy Majtenyi reports from V-O-A's East African Bureau in Nairobi.
TEXT: The U-N mission chief in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, told V-O-A Monday that last week's national television broadcast by the Eritrean government accusing U-N peacekeepers of having sex with minors, using Eritrean currency as toilet paper, and other serious misdeeds is misplaced.
Mr. Legwaila concedes that the peacekeepers have misbehaved during the mission's four-year patrol and had committed many of the alleged acts.
But he insists that allegations of misconduct have been thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Mr. Legwaila says it is unfair that the government is bringing up old incidents on television rather than face to face.
/// LEGWAILA ACT ///
Our complaint is not that the contents of this statement are not true to a large extent, but it is simply that these are issues which we can sit down with the Eritreans and discuss.
/// END ACT ///
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a war over their border from 1998 to 2000, during which an estimated 70-thousand people were killed.
Under a peace deal signed in 2000, the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was created to demarcate the one-thousand kilometer border, while more than four-thousand U-N peacekeepers were dispatched to ensure the stability of border areas.
Ethiopia rejected the commission's ruling because the disputed area of Badme was included within Eritrea's borders. Late last year, the commission said the demarcation exercise would be postponed indefinitely.
Mr. Legwaila says he thinks last week's broadcast comes out of Eritrea's frustration with the commission and the stalemate that is preventing the border from being marked.
/// LEGWAILA 2nd ACT ///
Although we understand that Eritrea has every reason to be frustrated, that frustration should not be taken out on us because, insofar as our mandate is concerned, we are doing a very good job.
/// END ACT ///
Brigadier General Abrahalei Kifle, a top Eritrean military official who deals with the mission, says the televised statement has nothing to do with Eritrea's border frustrations, but it is merely the truth.
He says Eritreans have been asking their government why U-N peacekeepers are allowed to break traffic rules, take their money, engage in pornography, and do other things contrary to the law.
/// OPT REST /// ABRAHALEI ACT ///
The report is coming from the people. They are very angry.
/// END ACT ///
Brigadier General Abrahalei says he does not have authority to ask the U-N peacekeepers to leave Eritrea. He says the government plans to warn their citizens to be on the lookout for the peacekeepers.
He also says his country is cooperating fully with the peacekeeping mission. (Signed)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|