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Eritrea and Ethiopia: Long-term Prospects for Building Durable Peace, Cooperation and Integration in the Horn of Africa

Eritrea and Ethiopia: Long-term Prospects for Building Durable Peace, Cooperation and Integration in the Horn of Africa

Elias Amare
Paper presented at the ESAT Conference on Ethiopia and Horn of Africa Conference
Arlington, VA
Saturday May 9, 2015

I would like to thank the organizers of this conference on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa for the opportunity to share my views on long-term prospects for durable peace, cooperation and integration in the Horn of Africa. At the outset, standard disclaimer: These are my personal views and opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the institutions with which I am affiliated.

I. Introduction

To state the obvious facts, our region of the Horn of Africa, in which Eritrea and Ethiopia are key members, is renowned for being the hottest zone of conflict in Africa. To put it bluntly, the region has steadily deteriorated from bad to worse, leading the continent in the dubious honors of having the longest wars, with its constituent countries at the top of the Failed States' Index, and at the bottom of the UN's annual list of Human Development Index.

As to the responsibility for this miserable condition that prevails in the Horn, to paraphrase the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe: “The trouble with the Horn of Africa is fairly and squarely a failure of leadership.” I’m taking the larger panoramic pan-Horn view here of the history of the past 50 years of post-World War II, post-colonial situation in our region.

II. Challenges of post-colonial nation-building process in the Horn of Africa

Building a modern nation-state out of the legacy of colonialism was never undertaken in earnest by the newly emerging ruling political elites. Before we undertake to analyze the current situation of the Horn of Africa, we would do well to take stock of not only what happened in the past 50 years of the post-independence period, but also the previous devastation of the colonial period from roughly the 1880s to 1960s. The colonial period of looting and pillage was devastating and catastrophic for Africa's future development. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, when most African states achieved their independence, the devastating legacy of the colonial state was deeply entrenched.  Instead of starting afresh from a clean slate, the African ruling classes of the newly independent states merely perpetuated the devastating legacy of the colonial state. They colluded with the former colonial masters and new imperialist powers to betray the promise of independence. In the words of Frantz Fanon:

“In underdeveloped countries the bourgeois phase is impossibly arid . . . Thus it must not be said that the national bourgeoisie [the new African ruling class after independence] retards the country's evolution, that it makes it lose time or that it threatens to lead the nation up blind alleys. In fact, the bourgeoisie in the history of underdeveloped countries is a completely useless phase. When this caste has vanished, devoured by its own contradictions, it will be seen that nothing new has happened since independence was proclaimed, and that everything must be started again from scratch. The changeover will not take place at the level of the structures set up by the bourgeoisie during its reign, since that caste has done nothing more than take over unchanged the legacy of the economy, the thought, and the institutions left by the colonialists.”

How sadly prophetic was Fanon’s prediction written over 45 years ago in his last seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth, which was literally written with his last dying breath. It happened in almost every state in Africa without fail! The past 50 years after independence in Africa have been wasted years leading to nowhere, and the promise of independence has long since been betrayed.  Thus, we can conclude that the real work of national development in the Horn of Africa has never been undertaken in all seriousness with single-minded laser focus and intensity. The self-reliant path to development that Eritrea has been undertaking for the past 24 years of its post-independence may be seen as an exception here, and for that brave stance Eritrea is paying a huge price and facing tremendous hostilities.

III.  The root causes of Interstate and Intrastate conflicts

The Horn has also been experiencing over the past half-century of post-colonial period a vicious cycle of conflicts, both interstate and intrastate. The primary driving force of these conflicts has been the monopolization of power by the center and the increasing marginalization of the peripheries of the modern state. And in most cases, by the way, the geographic and political centers coincide. Exacerbating the center-periphery tension with the resulting alienation and marginalization of the peripheries has also been the yearning of the marginalized ethno-national groups of the peripheries for self-determination. Unable to have meaningful participation in the affairs of the modern post-colonial state, these marginalized groups are left with no option but the pursuance of politics by other means, namely insurgencies and wars. Interstate wars in the Horn of Africa also abound more so than anywhere else in continent.

Underscocring this dialectical center-periphery and self-determination v unity tensions, renowned Africanist scholar Prof. Mahmoud Mamdani had this to say:
Like the self [in self-determination], unity too does not develop in linear fashion, in a straight line, from lower to higher levels, as if it were unfolding according to a formula. This is for one reason. Political unity is the outcome of political struggles, not of utopian blueprints. Anyone interested in creating unity must recognize the importance of politics and persuasion, and thus the inevitability of a non-linear process
To frame the complexities of the challenges of the post-colonial states in broad-brush general terms then, the colonial state in this part of Africa, having met the fiercest resistance from the natives, carved up the state in the most drastic shortsighted manner, whose legacies continue to haunt the post-colonial states to this date. The colonial state was never meant to serve the organic needs of the indigenous African peoples, but rather the interests of the colonial metropole, be it London, Paris, Lisbon or Rome. As I mentioned earlier, Fanon clearly and prophetically pointed this emerging trap in “The Wretched of the Earth” which was later updated and emphasized by Basil Davidson in his last book, “The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the National State.” Thus, the failure of Horn of Africa’s new ruling classes was that they perpetuated the colonial legacy of the state instead of radically and organically reconstituting and reconstructing it.

IV. Interlocking Clusters of Conflict

The intrastate conflicts of the Horn have also often spilled across borders to ignite interstate conflicts in the form of proxy wars, and in rare moments as full blown conventional wars. The Somalia-Ethiopia war of the 1960s and 70s; the Sudan-Ethiopia proxy war for decades; the Eritrea-Ethiopia war; and the Sudan-South Sudan war have their genesis in internal interstate conflicts, unable to find enduring political resolution and festering as interlocking conflicts.

John Prendergast and Thomas-Jensen have succinctly summarized in their article “Blowing the Horn” published in Foreign Affairs magazine back in 2007 on US misguided policy towards the Horn:

“The first centers on interlocking rebellions in Sudan, including those in Darfur and southern Sudan, and engulfs northern Uganda, eastern Chad, and northeastern Central African Republic. The main culprit is the Sudanese government, which is supporting rebels in these three neighboring countries—and those states, which are supporting Sudanese groups opposing Khartoum. The second cluster links the festering dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea with the power struggle in Somalia, which involves the fledgling secular government, antigovernment clan militias, Islamist militants, and anti-Islamist warlords. Ethiopia’s flash intervention in Somalia in December temporarily secured the ineffectual transitional government’s position, but that intervention, which Washington backed and supplemented with its own air strikes, has sown the seeds for an Islamist and clan-based insurgency in the future.”
V. Towards Durable Peace, Cooperation and Integration

It would serve no useful purpose here to go back and analyze in detail the long and bitter war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. History should be the great educator that helps us not to repeat its bitter lessons. Otherwise we will continue to lament decade after decade, like the Stephen Dedalus character in Joyce’s novel Ulysess, “History  is a nightmare from which [we are] trying to awake.”

We are where we are now, and the burning question of the day is how we move forward towards durable peace, cooperation and eventual integration of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, undeniably, has a central role to play in unraveling these festering interlocking conflicts of the Horn. There is a growing consensus that is emerging now among Eritreans and Ethiopians that the major impediment towards durable peace and cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia is the TPLF/EPRDF regime of Ethiopia.

On May 24, Eritreans inside the country as well as all over the world will be celebrating the 24th anniversary of their independence. Eritrea's independence is not of the neocolonial type. It is genuine and meaningful. The Eritrean people have proven themselves to be steadfast and resilient against all types of conspiracies and hostilities of the Western enablers of TPLF, and their African stooges. Eritreans have also proven in words and deeds that they desire nothing but good for Ethiopia. Many democratic forces in Ethiopia are also realizing that Eritrea is a trustworthy ally and partner for peace. In short, the Eritrean people have a lot to celebrate, as they have truly become owners and masters of their destiny, and no force on earth can take that sense of genuine independence and sovereignty away from them. The late patriotic Eritrean scholar, Prof Tekie Fessehatzion said it best 15 years ago: "In defiance Eritrea was born; and in defiance Eritrea will forever live free!"

In sharp contrast, the minority regime in Ethiopia under the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) will also be marking its 24 years in power. During the past 24 years, it has proven itself to be one of the most corrupt, tyrannical and subservient regimes in Africa. It has been waging genocidal wars against the Ethiopian peoples in all corners of the country, as well as wars of aggression against its neighboring countries. Its ruling elite have been looting and plundering the resources of the country. Ethiopia has never witnessed such sheer level of repression and brutality in its modern history during the past century as it has under the TPLF regime. After 24 years in power, the TPLF minority regime is still a "liberation front". Liberate whom from what? On May 24, the regime will be conveniently holding its charade of national elections. It is a foregone conclusion that these fake elections will be once again stolen from the Ethiopian people -- with the blessing of the usual suspects of the West -- to perpetuate the tyranny of a very narrow and frightened minority group over the majority of the Ethiopian peoples. The minority Ethiopian regime has also been illegally occupying sovereign Eritrean territories for the past 17 years, and perpetuating a de facto state of war against Eritrea.

Thus, unless the TPLF regime’s stranglehold on power is brought to an end, the prospects for durable peace, cooperation and integration between Eritrea and Ethiopia, eventually leading to peace-dividend of greater integration of the Horn, will just be a dream deferred. It has taken us a long time and arduous struggle to reach to this point. Though there are grounds for pessimism of intellect, as Gramsci pointed out, if we have the optimism of the political will, the challenges ahead are not insurmountable.

VI. Conclusion

There is no doubt, then, that the vast creative and dynamic force of our peoples in the region needs to be unleashed to tackle the urgent task of peace-building and development. At this important historical juncture, we look especially to our youth to chart a new alternative path that is radically different from that of the past 50 years of failure and betrayal.

Furthermore, we must not have any illusion that the solutions to the myriad problems of peace and development that face our region today – and in particular the turbulent Ethio-Eritrean relations --  will come from outside, especially from the West. Believing that the solution can only come from within ourselves, we need an inward looking approach that rejects perpetual dependency and exploitation.

As Frantz Fanon exhorted us over four decades ago, let us today commit ourselves to undertake the much delayed challenges of peace-building, cooperation, integration and development. “Come, then, comrades; it would be as well to decide at once to change our ways. We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind. The new day which is already at hand must find us firm, prudent, and resolute!”

Thank you.

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Eritrea and Ethiopia: Long-term Prospects for Building Durable Peace, Cooperation and Integration in the Horn of Africa Reviewed by Admin on 4:16 PM Rating: 5


  1. You try to fool your self not the Ethiopian peoples. We are much better without you for ever.

  2. Eritrea is not a key member of the Horn of Africa. Eritrea is an irrelevant member. Djibouti is hell of a lot more important. Hell, a random fruit-stand by a sidewalk has more importance to the Horn of Africa than Eritrea does. The Horn of Africa spat out Eritrea a long time ago. She's now making noise so that the fast developing neighbors notice she still exists.

  3. There will be no peace while Isisas is leading you and we are on right direction with no peace no war unless you force us to fight you once for all.

  4. Are u speaking for the Woyane beggers or the 90Million?

  5. No war no peace for over a decade now. Guess what, it will continue for a very, very long time to come. Better get used to it. Good luck with your petitions and thuggish assault on UN officials in Geneva. Shaboons only understand a tough response. And Ethiopia is giving it to them. Instead of hiding behind the skirts of Berhanu Nega, why not fight yourself. Just 'liberate' Badme and see what happens. Sunset all over again right?


  7. u are the fool not the writer, only and only peacefull coexisistance, harmony could lead to prosperity and development, just in sincerly collanoration, Be matured, come down from the tree.

  8. They will never be the friends of Ethiopia and we all knows what they have done to our Country and what they are doing at the moment to let us fight each other for their main goal to destablize us and we need to take decisive action against their smart goal that they can only see but we all Ethiopians are blind to their wishes and dreams.

  9. Hey smart ass, yes their will be no peace with Arab created Italian banda shaboons that fought all its neighbors and wanted by international criminal court for violating human right.

  10. Fighting for a lasting dominance:
    To begin with the conference was set up by Eritrean regime. The conference has no any political meaning except to fulfill Eritrea government political supporters appetites. Ethiopia and Eritrea are at a cross road. Either the Ethiopia ruling party or the regime in Eritrea pass through this cross road. The party that is going to make it trough this cross road will set itself to be the dominant player for years to come in the region . If a war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea the Ethiopian ruling party will confidently come on top. The Eritrean regime will be the last puppy who tried to cross to Ethiopia using military force and the regime will fall apart for good. A war will broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea, when that happens it is going to be devastating. Both nations have been building their military for a while. There is enough armament on both sides to make future conflict between these two nations the mother of all wars in east Africa if both sides have the moral and the resources to last a while. There are a number of reasons why Ethiopia is going to win any conflict with Eritrea, the moral of its army, the size of its economy and population, the type of weapon in the army corps, the political will and strength of of its leaders, the diplomatic skill of its foreign policy makers and Ethiopian peoples' culture to come together when Ethiopia's sovereignty is at stake. In terms of people coming together during a national crisis, Eritreans do the same, but it is a number game.The Ethiopian leaders should remember to win in Eritrea conflict means to win for a long time in regional politics which is going to bring all other prestige to go with it. Ethiopia building its economy, its military and winning any regional conflict with decisive manner is a key for stability, future political and economy prosperity, there is a lot at stake here. Ethiopia and Eritrea future peace and development perspective, will depend on the result of a war that is going to be take place sooner or later. The regime in Asmara and the government in Ethiopia are an epic center of tectonic plate of politics. Unless one gets rid of the other peace perspective and development is far fetched idea. Two war mongering entities never came to a round table discussion unless there is some kind of breaking point that came about due to lack of power to fight of divesting loss. We all remember how the Badme war was started and ended But as I said Ethiopia will come on top and then everything will depend on Ethiopia's will to drive future developments between these two nations.

  11. Incase you forgot Woyanes are part of 90Ml Ethiopians and who always faces 1st all the invading forces including the former Italian bandas like yours.

  12. Hey weyane boys, are u guys jealous the new friendship between deki Erey & deki Shiwa? yes we had confernce hosted by ESAT. My enemy enemy is my friend. G7 are our new bodies.

  13. Calling it like it isJuly 22, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    There ain't gonna be durable peace until Weyane Tigray is defeated. Weyane Tigray is the arch enemy of Eritra. The mere mention of a sovereign Eritrea is a head ache to Weyane Tigray. Simple as that. It's either Weyane Tigray or Eritrea. Both can not exist. They should be able to in theory but due to Weyane Tigray's inferiority complex, it is not possible for peace in the next 25 to 50 years. It just aint!

  14. We don't have to lift a finger we r going to have national popcorn popping day so we can watch when G7 & Demhit chasing weyane out of Ethio.

  15. Problem is Tigray has this deep-seated inferiority complex no one can fix. That is the crux of the problem. Eritreans don't want to bother with that.

  16. Eritrea just called its reserve army for duty today. It means no peace no war is going to end soon. The speed of the Eritrean government to put its military resource together caught off guard the regime in Addis. The Ethiopian government busy hosting international meetings and Obama gave ISiais a good opportunity to make a speedy preparation. Over the week end Eritrea might make its first move just to say "on your face" to Obama

  17. Poor Woyane pimp! You can try to drag the "Ethiopian people" into this but the conflict is between your hired mercenary tribal Woyane regime and the people of Eritrea on one hand your tribal regime and the majority of Ethiopians.
    You dream about "diplomatic skills" aka broad daylight pimping for those who have been guarding your ass so you can do their dirty work for them.

    You can dream about your ethnocentric Woyane regime coming up on top of this but you are "between a rock and hard place" caught with your pants down. You have been wining and crying "terrorism" etc for the last few years all is left now kissing you sass good by and park your stinking Woyane tribal corpse 6 feet under :))

  18. I believe you have been deaf for a while. You repeat the same rhetoric all the time, the one heard just before you became deaf. I was going to say what is wrong with you, but I already knew. Woyane is your enemy. Woyane is part of Ethiopia so Woyane is Ethiopia. If Ethiopians have a problem with Woyane we will take care of it. You just stay where you are. If you don't we will make a leash to hold you forever

  19. That is right, Mr. genius. The Abay Tigray Manifesto was a pledge for Woyanes Ethiopianess....

  20. elias amare please try to change your citizenship to eritrea,the null counry or talked much and insulted we ethiopians for a small fraction of dollars givern from IsaYas.The foolish elias amare what you should know is we ethiopians never try to copperate with eritrea.but try to change your citizenship to eritrea whlie miion eritreans are begging to change their citizenship through out the corner of the world.

  21. eritrea will be desintegerated soon to kunama,redsea afar,kebesa and western islamic republic of eritrea!

  22. You are correct Ethiopians are taking care of your tribal Woyane regime. You retarded dog breath Woyane beggar, that is what Eritreans have been telling you all along. Thank you for finally getting it.
    Ethiopians, the majority of Ethiopians I might add, have an irreconcilable issies with your Ethnic Woyane militia and rest assured they will put you to rest :))

  23. We are not going to make war with flies or donkeys if you want, as you know Eritreans are priceless as people, but you need to be sure to do a good home work as you many trouble inside..that's enough.

  24. What a paper? Alwena, alewena..

  25. It is good to always stand on what y believe. Personall I found the paper to be a good one because it talks on the context of Africa as a whole starting from independence 50 years ago. If y properly understand English the paper is talking about the future cooperation, integration etc. Y r still persisting war with 100% confident that Ethiopia will win. It is not a matter of winning that is a concern, the very sad situation is people are dying, properties are destructed and no development at all. Look the western's development! The war is not only with Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is in many places as it is well versed in the paper. It is mentioned change comes within us. True! Think positive and look thinks 360 degree.
    The following quote will help you change yr attitude. "....Anyone interested in creating unity must recognize the importance of politics and persuasion, and thus the inevitability of a non-linear process...

  26. metasazenema ante nhe!

  27. Ethiopia is already peaceful and developing towards prosperity. Eritrea is not a factor for Ethiopia's peace and development. Ethiopia is already hosting nearly 150,000 Eritrean refugees in camps within Ethiopia and even providing free higher education to about 2,000 of the Eritrean refugees. You should be grateful for what Ethiopia is doing. If you're refering of the old days when Eritrea was the bloodsucker of Ethiopian resources and economy, those days are long dead and gone. They will never return. Eritreans will never have the benefits of Ethiopian resources, prosperity or the good will of the people. You bit the hand that fed you. Now you'll have to settle for the dogfood handed to you by your colonial masters.

  28. Ethiopian sword is over your neck you like it or not, wedi may Telamit!
    Do not draw Eritrea in the middle of your "Ethiopian" internal issues.
    Stop pointing your gun to north. Ethios do not like it and gave you deaf ears long ago. They are standing by their own against you WOY'ANE.... Take the heat Erty ..Ras-be-Ras ! LOL LOL

  29. We are busy winning all race for AFRICA ! while you safeguard your masters interest singing
    Zeraf! Zeraf! dedeb LOL LOL LOL

  30. Play it Oromo to fool Ethios but not over here, snake woyane LOL LOL

  31. Meles was wishing all Evil to Eritrea and Eritreans, look where he is now LOL LOL LOL

  32. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    I understand what's making u frustrated ===>>> Now Shaeuwya is taking away ur cannon-fodders [human resource] of Tigrai and turned them against u...And the other groups including [Ginbot-7] have taken ur only strength- And now u cant take it, this psychological-war that will dismantle ur beloved woyane-tigray and the obvious implications==>> uprising of the Ethio-pple and that is why.. for woyane-tigray to go to war with Eritrea will be catastrophic.

  33. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    Nope not really...Ha-ha-ha.. U are just farting Aytey Erty..just deal with ur rebels that are kicking ur behind. Ha-ha-ha...

  34. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    Hi Erty -- Bye Erty. LOL..

  35. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    Hi Erty -- Bye Erty. LOL...

  36. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    Hi Erty --- Bye Erty. LOL..

  37. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    Hi Erty -- Bye Erty. LOL..

  38. ኣሌክ - Alec youJuly 23, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Ha-ha-ha... u wish!!!..

  39. You said What a paper? Let me ask you, what is the title? In the title there were three points one:durable peace, prosperity, and integration two: how to build them three: In Africa. did you get any information how to do those in the paper? If you did, your are reading something that is not there. What does the introductory paragraph talked about? Is there any history of past attempts and failures in east Africa in terms of building peace, prosperity, and integration. No. The introductory paragraph does not even lead readers what the topic of the paper is, does not outline the topics in order how readers expect them. I can keep on going to point out paragraph by paragraph that the paper does not have the style of any paper writing but most people who comment on a paper do know what those are except you.

  40. Eritrawi DankalawiJuly 23, 2015 at 10:22 PM

    Well very good article what we want is peace enough is enough we have losted so many generations in fighting so we should focus on Ethiopian Peoples and especially new generation the woyane wanted to make people busy with business and economics at the same time creating problems with Egypt and Kenya peace will come soon so let us be prepared to receive it

  41. It is good to always stand on what y believe. Personall I found the
    paper to be a good one because it talks on the context of Africa as a
    whole starting from independence 50 years ago. If y properly understand
    English the paper is talking about the future cooperation, integration
    etc. Y r still persisting war with 100% confident that Ethiopia will
    win. It is not a matter of winning that is a concern, the very sad
    situation is people are dying, properties are destructed and no
    development at all. Look the western's development! The war is not
    only with Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is in many places as it is well
    versed in the paper. It is mentioned change comes within us. True!
    Think positive and look thinks 360 degree.
    The following quote will
    help you change yr attitude. "....Anyone interested in creating unity
    must recognize the importance of politics and persuasion, and thus the
    inevitability of a non-linear process...


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