UN peacekeeping mission reopens bridge between Ethiopia and Eritrea

“The mandate of UNMEE is to keep two armies apart, but underlying this is a desire to bring two peoples together. How better to symbolize this than to build a bridge,” UNMEE’s Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ian Martin, told assembled dignitaries, military representatives, journalists and peacekeepers at the official reopening of the bridge across the Mereb river on Saturday.The bridge crosses the Mereb river between the towns of Rama in Ethiopia and Adi Quala in Eritrea. When UNMEE peacekeepers first arrived in the area, a six-metre span of the bridge was lying, destroyed, in the centre of the waterway. In response to patrolling difficulties faced by peacekeepers who had trouble crossing the Mereb River, UNMEE Force Commander Major-General Patrick Cammaert decided to reconstruct the bridge as a matter of priority.Using a prefabricated bridge donated by the Dutch government, UNMEE peacekeepers worked overtime to clear the area of mines and install the span in advance of the rainy season. The peacekeepers, who used floodlights in order to continue their efforts at night, completed the repair in just 15 days – about half of the normal installation time.The bridge will make easier for UNMEE to carry out its monitoring duties in the area, said the Force Commander, adding, “I hope the bridge can be used in the near future to allow people from Ethiopia and Eritrea to visit friends and relatives.” The newly repaired bridge can carry up to 60 tonnes and requires very little maintenance. The Force Commander expressed hope that “the bridge between these two countries and two peoples [will] live forever.” read more