The Dutch contribution to United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)
The Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG: an intergovernmental alliance of a number of UN member states) supplied a substantial part of the peace force’s military component. UNMEE was under the command of Dutch Major General P.C. Cammaert.
On 13 October 2000, the Dutch government decided to take part in UNMEE as part of SHIRBRIG with a reinforced marine battalion (including 4 Chinook transport helicopters, a field hospital and a logistic company). The battalion was deployed in UNMEE’s central sector, which covered some 250 kilometres in a straight line from west to east and 200 kilometres from the southernmost location (Adigrat) to the Eritrean port of Massawa.
Composition of the battalion
The UN felt that the battalion in UNMEE's central sector should consist of 4 reinforced companies. The marine battalion had 3 and was therefore reinforced with a Canadian ‘company’ (530 men), thus creating the Netherlands-Canadian Battalion (NECBAT). The commander of the marine battalion was also the commander of NECBAT and of the sector. The sector command was augmented with a Slovakian mine clearance company, several French officers, more than 70 military observers and a number of political advisers. In the meantime, a Dutch colonel had also been sent to the Eritrean capital of Asmara at the end of July 2000 as head of a liaison team.
The landing platform dock, HNLMS Rotterdam, provided support for NECBAT in the start-up phase.
The battalion and sector headquarters, B-company and the Dutch reconnaissance platoon were based in Adigrat (the only battalion location situated in Ethiopia). A-company was sent to Adi Quala and C-company to May Mine. The Canadian H-company and the Canadian reconnaissance platoon were stationed in Senafe. The support units and the helicopter detachment set up their camp in Dekemhare, also home to the Dutch contingent command.
The 1st Dutch units were operational in the TSZ by 11 December, almost 2 months earlier than the other UNMEE battalions from Jordan and Kenya. NECBAT’s deployment had one important cut-off point, namely 18 April 2001, the day on which the force commander established the TSZ.
Before then, the emphasis had been on monitoring the military activities of the Eritrean and Ethiopian forces, both inside and outside the TSZ. From 12 February to 18 April, NECBAT also oversaw the withdrawal of the military forces of both countries from the TSZ.
After 18 April, NECBAT had its hands full with the returning administrators, police officials and militia, followed after 10 May by tens of thousands of displaced persons returning to their homes.
In the months of May and June, NECBAT’s attention was focused mainly on the Irob region, near Senafe, where large numbers of Ethiopian troops were stationed. The government of Eritrea refused to formally recognise the TSZ, partly because, on the one hand, there were still Ethiopian troops in the Irob region and, on the other, Eritrea wanted to deploy large numbers of militia troops in the TSZ.
Intensified patrols and the setting up of a platoon location in Monoxito restored peace to the area. On 11 June 2001, NECBAT handed over the area responsibility to an Indian battalion and the last NECBAT military personnel left the area of operations on 22 June.