It took the United Nations Security Council just five minutes to unanimously agree to send 4,200 Ethiopian troops to the disputed Sudanese region of Abyei as a peacekeeping force.
Security Council resolution 1990 gives the Ethiopian soldiers a six month mandate “authorizing the use of force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in Abyei”.
They will be deployed as the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and are expected to reach Abyei within the next few weeks at which point President Omar al-Bashir, who has agreed to the depoyment, will withdraw his Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) from the town and the region.
Khartoum invaded and occupied Abyei last month causing 100,000 people to flee southwards to safety and triggering another humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan just weeks before it is due to declare independence on 9 July.
Ethiopia has a lot of confidence-building to do among the southern residents of Abyei, most of whom are living under trees since fleeing their homes in late May.
UN peacekeepers’ reputation in Abyei is in tatters after they hid in their fortified compound as the northern army invaded last month and watched over the parapets as homes were burned down and possession looted.
The UN says it has launched an investigation into the actions of the predominately Zambian peacekeepers.
Nor was this the first time UN ‘blue helmets’ have shown remarkable cowardice and failed to protect civilians. In May 2008 Khartoum’s forces razed Abyei and, as last month, the peacekeepers took cover.