On 30 June 2000, Security Council resolution 1312 established the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), with up to 100 military observers and support staff in anticipation of a peacekeeping operation.

On 5 September 2000, Security Council resolution 1320 authorized the deployment of up to 4,300 troops including 220 military observers (UNMOs), three infantry battalions, and support units, to monitor the ceasefire and border demarcation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Units of the UN’s Standing High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) deployed in Ethiopia and Eritrea in November 2000 and helped to establish the Force Headquarters (HQ). The first SHIRBRIG units in UNMEE were from Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. Major General Patrick Cammaert from the Netherlands was the first Force Commander (FC). Brigadier General Chris Arap Kuto of Kenya arrived at the Force HQ in February 2001 as the first Deputy Force Commander.

On 12 Sep 2004, Security Council resolution 1560 reduced the military component to 3,342 troops. On 31 May 2006, Security Council resolution 1681 authorized a further reconfiguration of the military component, downsizing its strength to 2,300 troops including 230 Military Observers. On 30 January 2007, Security Council resolution 1741 further reduced UNMEE’s military presence from 2,300 to 1,700 military personnel, including up to 230 Military Observers.  

Temporary relocation from Eritrea

UNMEE began a temporary relocation of its peacekeepers from Eritrea in February 2008. The move resulted from the Eritrean Government's decision to stop diesel fuel deliveries to the Mission on 1 December 2007. The Mission could no longer fulfil its mandate without fuel for transportation or to power electrical generators needed for communications and the refrigeration of food and medicines. After multiple requests by the Mission and the United Nations failed to persuade the Eritrean Government to reinstate the fuel supply, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ordered a temporary relocation, for the safety of UNMEE's personnel.

Originally, the Mission was to temporarily relocate in Ethiopia, but when efforts to cross the border failed, UNMEE's troops and most of the equipment from all 32 contingent posts and observer team sites in and outside of the Temporary Security Zone, moved to Asmara. The relocation began on 17 February and by 2 March, all the troops were regrouped in Asmara or Assab. Most of the Mission's 1,380 military personnel in Eritrea had returned to their home countries by the end of March 2008.

UNMEE continues to maintain a limited civilian and military presence in Asmara and Assab for liaison purposes, for the management of the logistical aspects of relocation, and for the protection of UNMEE's personnel and supplies.

UNMEE's presence in Ethiopia was not affected by the relocation.