The United Nations has ended its peacekeeping mission in East Timor after 13 years of providing the country direct security assistance.
A final batch of UN troops and logistics staff left the South-east Asian country, officially known as Timor Leste, on Monday.
“Timor-Leste has now reached a stage in its development, politically and developmentally, where it can in fact stand on its own feet,” said Finn Reske-Nielsen, Head of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.
The government plans to boost development from the country’s offshore oil and gas reserves, which experts say, may benefit urban Timorese more than the regional poor.
“In the end we have to say goodbye to the UN with… high appreciation for what they have been doing in Timor-Leste,” said Fernando La Sama de Araujo., Deputy Prime Minister on Sunday.
He said East Timor would first focus on improving schools, hospitals and human resources in the public sector and expressed his optimism on overcoming the challenges faced by the country in the next 10 years.
UN forces entered the territory during a violent conflict in which an estimated 183,000 people were killed in 1999 and organised a referendum which led to the independence of East Timor from Indonesia in 2002.
The current mission was established in 2006, when fighting broke out between military groups and police which left 37 dead and tens of thousands, displaced.
1,500 UN peacekeepers were based there since the political turmoil.
The UN’s human development index ranks East Timor 147th out of 187 nations, below Pakistan and Bangladesh and the regional average.