UN bids farewell to landmark E Timor mission
DILI - Agence France-Presse
Australian troops accompany UN officials leaving East Timor in Dili. AFP photoThe U.N. ended its peacekeeping mission in East Timor yesterday after 13 years in Asia’s youngest nation following a bloody transition to independence as the country faces the challenge of tackling rampant poverty.
U.N. forces first entered the territory around the vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999 that gave way to political unrest and bloodshed, and around 1,500 peacekeepers were based there since. The final batch of troops and logistics staff left in the morning as the mission prepared to take down its flag, departing from a country struggling with widespread malnutrition and maternal mortality rates among the world’s worst.
Calm has been restored to the half-island nation of 1.1 million, and leaders said they were excited about their nation’s new direction despite the many problems that lie ahead for the fragile democracy, officially called Timor-Leste.
“In the end we have to say goodbye to the U.N. with... high appreciation for what they have been doing in Timor-Leste,” Deputy Prime Minister Fernando La Sama de Araujo told Agence France-Presse at end-of-year festivities outside the government palace Dec. 30 night.
The government plans to fuel development from the country’s significant but depleting offshore oil and gas reserves that critics say benefit urban Timorese more than the regional poor. The U.N.-administered referendum in 1999 ended Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation, in which around 183,000 people, then a quarter of the population, died from fighting, starvation or disease. The global body oversaw East Timor until 2002, when an independent government took over.