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The Causes of Return to Conflict and The Geopolitical Dynamics in The Horn of Africa: The Eritrean-Ethiopian Border Conflict

By Meala Tesfamichael (participant’s paper), Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. 

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Explaining why conflicts occur or re-emerge has been a difficult task for policy makers and academics. It remains an area where theories and strategies are in a dynamic of changes and challenges over time and space and driven by different grievances from economic gains, selfdetermination, territorial integrity, nationalism and power gaining. The case of the EritreanEthiopian border conflict is, thus, matter of interest, which has been neglected on the international board.

The return to conflict needs to be debated and analysed on its causes and consequences for these neighbour countries but also in the region as a whole. Hence, the Horn of Africa has always been a tool to invasions, colonisations and bases for super powers due to its geo-strategic position on the coastline.

All these aspects are important to consider in understanding the reasons why the diplomatic relations between the newly independent Eritrea and its neighbour Ethiopia have broken out in the late 1990s, consequently, created, until today, a situation of ‘no war no peace’.

The Horn of Africa is a region well known in African politics of being a volatile, hostile and poor place due to numerous conflicts, wars, and colonisations. Understanding the eruption of conflict between neighbouring states in the era of globalisation where, conflicts are often perceived as being internal, the Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict challenged this aspect of wars with a return to conventional war of inter-states conflict.

The cause of this return to conflict has been difficult to explain by the wider international community as they were perceived as brothers’ countries since the independence of Eritrea in 1991 and the new government of Ethiopia in place since then. However, the Horn of Africa was once more the victim of its fourth conflict between states, which makes it “a regional record for Africa” (Markakis 2003:359). Thus, the sudden shift from cooperation to a state of complete diplomatic fallout until today needs to be further examine on its deep-rooted reasons and to, look at the role of conflict resolution and prevention in practice and how it is challenged by the reality of conflicts.

Thus, the research paper aims in looking at the last fifteen years of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia in order to analyse the degradation of diplomatic situation and the escalation of war. The research will give an understanding of the causes leading to war and how it was influenced by the dynamics of geopolitical change, which are part of the politics towards the Horn of Africa since the Cold War.

The dissertation would argue that the return to conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998 is part of a ‘blame-game’ relations influence by the international arena and there is no one side to be taken from the other, but the influence of power and geopolitical resources are important factors influencing the relations between the neighbour countries and how international agreement and laws are only tools by some against others.

To read the participant’s paper: please click here

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


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