Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, and although the 1000km border was already defined by colonial era treaties, it was yet to be demarcated. Although the governments in both countries were former wartime allies, relations soon deteriorated and, in late 1997, several armed clashes occurred on the border.1 A joint Border Commission was established to investigate the dispute, however only one meeting was held before relations soured further. In May 1998, Eritrean forces occupied the disputed territory, sparking an armed conflict.2 The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) acted quickly to try and bring the belligerents to the negotiating table, presenting an initiative developed by the Rwandan and US governments. The Government of Eritrea rejected the proposal and, in response, the Ethiopian military launched a large offensive in February 1999. In a change of tack, the Eritrean leadership accepted the OAU proposals, only for their Ethiopian counterparts to refuse to sign an article on technical arrangements.3 The fighting continued, with Ethiopian forces launching additional large offensives in early 2000.
Indirect talks resumed in April 2000 with little progress, however once Ethiopian troops had struck deep into Eritrean territory, the parties gathered for talks in Algiers. The negotiations culminated in June 2000 with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, which affirmed the disputed territory to be under Ethiopian administration, stipulated the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from a 25km demilitarised zone, and called for a UN peacekeeping force to assist with implementation.4 In September 2000, the first of UNMEE’s 4,200 peacekeepers arrived to supervise the demilitarised zone.5 With peacekeepers in place and their respective armies withdrawn from the demilitarised zone, the leaders of both countries met in Algiers to continue the peace talks.6 Building on previous proposals, the parties signed a formal peace treaty witnessed by the UN Secretary-General, the OAU, EU, and the governments of Algeria and the USA in December 2000, ending the armed conflict and placing responsibility for resolving the territorial dispute in the hands of neutral commissions.7 The brutal war cost the lives of almost 100,000 people, however consistent efforts to facilitate dialogue and the deployment of UNMEE helped to bring the fighting to an end.