Eritrea relied on trade with Ethiopia whilst Ethiopia relied on Eritrean ports for shipment of its goods. Their nationals also enjoyed free movement between the countries and freedom of investment. The main question that lingers in our minds is how and why two nations who depend on each other for survival and economic prosperity would engage in a full-scale war due to a minor border dispute. This question is well answered by Abbink who argues that the border dispute was just a means to achieve wider ends and regional dominance by the Eritrean leader Isaias Afewerki and pressure from Meles Zenawi’s party, Tigrayans and the wider public.1 Other factors include personal arrogance of the two leaders, authoritarian disposition, political indecisiveness, and lack of clear-cut statesman-like agreements on mutual politico-economic relations of the two new states.2 Whatever the case, this behavior is in line with the realism theory of international relations that posits that states only act to increase their power relative others. This doctrine has been prevalent in previous major wars such as the two World Wars and Cold War. I will argue that this war could have been have avoided if only the two leaders engaged in diplomacy.
The essay will be divided into six sections. The first section will discuss the roots and history of the conflict. Secondly, the attempts made by international community to avert the crises will be discussed. Thirdly, the current situation. Fourthly, lessons learned and prospects for constructive change and finally, a brief conclusion.
Eritrea-Ethiopia War can be traced back to the era of colonization when the imperialists and colonial rulers engaged in “divide and conquer” policy.3The imperialists thus drew borders between countries wherever they colonized and this is how Italy ended up drawing maps in this northern region of Africa and especially Eritrea and Ethiopia.