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The Complex Roots of the Second Eritrea- Ethiopia War: Re-examining the Causes

R Bereketeab


The article highlights some of the embedded plausible causes of the war that are quite often glossed over. It argues that at the centre of the conflict stand different perceptions of history, identity, as well as claims and counterclaims of state rights, decolonisation process, and nation-state formation. Beyond the minor border skirmishes of May 1998, the  contested interpretation of history and identity formation, and the concomitant search for a separate identity and sovereignty, on one hand, and denial of that separate identity and sovereignty, on the other, explain the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict. In that sense the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict will be found to revolve around the status of Eritrean independence. Moreover two sets of the conflict – Tigray-Eritrea and Ethiopia-Eritrea – have further complicated the search for settlement of the conflict. The first step towards finding a lasting solution that would normalise relations between the two countries would be Ethiopia’s definitive and unconditional recognition and acceptance of separate Eritrean identity and sovereignty, including its colonial boundaries. Both the people of Tigray, and Ethiopia as a whole, need to accept this reality. Secondly, Ethiopia’s legitimate interest should be addressed in a manner that will not undermine Eritrea’s sovereignty. Only then will Ethiopia’s need to have access to the sea find lasting and amicable solution acceptable to both sides.

Key Words: Eritrea, Ethiopia, EPLF, TPLF, war, history, identity, sovereignty

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eISSN: 0850-7902