The Conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea: An Assessment and Potential Solutions


Contact Information
World Mediation Organization - Daniel Erdmann
Hohenzollerndamm 182
Berlin - 10713
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This paper discusses the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the difficulties that both parties are having implementing the decision. This conflict may qualify as an intractable conflict. Conflict "is a difference within a person, or between two or more people, that touches them in a significant way" (LeBaron and Pillay, 2006, p. 12). Conflict hurts the most "when their interdependence is so essential that they cannot do away with it despite the difficulties of remaining interdependent, such as for friends or lovers" (LeBaron & Pillay, 2006, p. 88). Such is the case between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Intractable conflicts have endured for a long time and "have refused to yield to efforts" (Crocker, Hampson & Aall, 2005, p. 5). Intractable conflicts "denote conflicts that (1) continue over an extended period of time, (2) are characterized by ever-present tension and violence, and (3) are arenas for many futile attempts at management or resolution" (Bercovitch, 2005, p. 101). They also may be intractable "because they do not matter enough for concerted international reaction" (Crocker et al, 2005, p. 15), or because over "50 percent of all mediation efforts were unsuccessful" (Crocker et al, 2005, p. 116). An intractable conflict is also characterized by the repeated failure of one party to force upon the others a cessation of hostilities, by "the failure of parties to negotiate an ending after trying to do so, and (by) the failure of external intervention to stop or transform the intractable" conflict (Kriesberg, 2005, p. 73).

Brief Historical Introduction: The Treaty of Peace with the Allied Powers of 1947: In 1890, Italy formally established the Colony of Eritrea and ruled it as its colony until 1941, when the British defeated the Italians in Africa and took over the administration (Eritrea: Foreign Policy & Government Guide, 2007, p. 12). During the period of Italian control, Ethiopia and Italy concluded three boundary agreements that together, addressed the entire common boundary of the Colony of Eritrea and the Empire of Ethiopia. Following World War II, the Treaty of Peace with the Allied Powers of 1947, stipulated in its Article 23 that Italy renounced "all rights and title to the Italian possessions in Africa", and agreed that "pending their final disposal, the said possessions shall continue under their present (British) administration" (Treaty of Peace with the Allied Powers of 1947, February 10, p. 2-3).

The UN General Assembly Resolution 390A(V): In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly by its resolution 390A(V) recommended that "Eritrea shall constitute an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Crown" (UN General Assembly Resolution 390A(V), 1952, p. 1-2)
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Conflict, Ethiopia, Eritrea


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