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The Cause of the Eritrean-Ethiopian Border Conflict

by Alemseged Tesfai

Two premises or assumptions have governed Ethio-Eritrean relations of the past sixty years. First is the notion carved into the minds of generations of Ethiopians by the Haileselassie regime that Eritrea is, by nature and logic, part of Ethiopia. The well known arguments of a common history, religion and culture is invoked here and Eritrea is defined as Ethiopia's natural "outlet to the sea".

The second premise, which is linked to and complements the first, regards Eritrea as economically weak and unviable, such that its very survival totally depends on Ethiopian resources. This line of thinking further depicts Eritrea as an ethnically, linguistically and regionally divided "Italian creation without the makings of a state"....


by Dan Connell

Key Points:

  • The U.S.-sponsored federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea triggered a 30-year war when Ethiopia annexed the strategic Red Sea territory.
  • Eritrean liberation forces, fighting with little outside help, defeated successive U.S.- and Soviet-backed Ethiopian regimes to win independence in 1993.
  • Abandoned after the cold war, Eritrea was born in ruins, with almost 85% of its three million people surviving on donated relief
  • MORE ...

The Ethiopian-Eritrean crisis: The Eritrean perspective

by Foreign Minister Haile Woldensae
(Initially published in "American Foreign Policy Interests".
Vol. 20, Number 6, December 1998)

Eritrea's geographical position as a littoral state of the Red Sea and as a member of the historically troubled Horn of Africa has hitherto made it the victim of an inordinate number of colonial wars and wars of aggression in the declaration and conduct of which its people had no say at all. The thirty years92 war of liberation, caused to a large extent by the UN's unwillingness to live up to its responsibilities of ensuring respect for its resolutions and decisions, has taken an excessive toll inhuman lives, the loss of property, and the destruction of the ecology. Eritreans are thus determined that their country will not again be scarred by the ravages of war and that their foreign and domestic policies will not be counseled by the logic of the use of force. They affirm and strictly adhere to the principles of peace, non aggression, good neighborliness, non interference in the internal affairs of states, nonintervention, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. These principles are applied uniformly, with neighbors and others alike. MORE ...

Do Ethiopia's Recent Claims and Allegations on the Economic
Relationship That Existed Between Eritrea and Ethiopia Hold Water?

Since the eruption of the border conflict, Ethiopia has been making incredible claims regarding the economic relationship that existed between the two countries in the past seven years.
Ethiopia's assertions and allegations include, inter alia:

- Eritrea had unfair economic advantages in its relationship with Ethiopia;
- Eritrea had been economically bleeding Ethiopia and had the sinister design to continue to do so;
- Ethiopia paid Birr 1.2 billion per annum to Eritrea in port dues and fees;
- Eritrean ports had been more expensive to Ethiopia than Djibouti;
- Eritrea closed Assab to Ethiopian cargo;
- Eritrea repurchased Ethiopian crude oil imports in Birr despite frequently insisting on payment for Eritrean port services in US dollars; and
- By re-exporting the coffee it imported from Ethiopia for its home market, Eritrea had been listed as the 13th major coffee exporting country.

These most startling assertions and allegations would make one question if the cooperation agreements were really between two sovereign states. They would make one wonder why a government like that of Ethiopia that boasts of being fiercely independent and that would not under any circumstances compromise or sacrifice the interests of its people would succumb to the pressure of the government of the State of Eritrea and enter into such one-sided arrangements. MORE ...


Zurich, April 27, 1999

PART I: Background to the current regional situation and military conflict
PART II: The course of the open conflict
PART III: The domestic impact of the war and other internal developments in Ethiopia
PART IV: The second Congo Civil War and its regional and trans-regional impact.


The war now looming between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a direct manifestation of Ethiopia's appetite for expansion and annexation of territories to which it has no legal right for its claims. For centuries, it employed "lie, deceit, and conquest" as a tactical policy to expropriate territories and subjugate peoples in the process. There is no country in the Horn, including the Sudan, which is not directly or indirectly affected by this. The Somali land of Ogaden in the east, the Oromo land in the south and west, and of course Eritrea in the north are direct victims of such policy. MORE ...

Behind Eritrea's Second Independence War

By: Laine Araia (Bochum, Germany.) August 18, 2000

Despite its numerous public pronouncements in support of Eritrean independence, the TPLF, currently the ruling party in Ethiopia, never in good faith accepted the idea of an independent Eritrean State. And the more it abandoned its original political and military objective to achieve independence for Tigray, the more it increasingly became hostile to the idea of Eritrean independence from Ethiopia. This was clearly spellt out by Meles Zenawi in an interview he granted to Mr. Paul Henze, an American veteran diplomat and a pathological hater of the very word Eritrea, in late March 1990. Meles told Henze in unambiguous words that an independent Eritrean State was not in the interests of Ethiopia and particularly not in the interests of Tigray. MORE ...

Border and Territorial Conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia: Background, Facts and Prospects

Andebrhan Weldegiorgis
Ambassador of the State of Eritrea to the EU
16 April 2004

The Horn of Africa adjoins the oil-rich Middle East and straddles the vital shipping lanes linking Africa, Asia and Europe across the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab el Mandeb and the Indian Ocean. It lies at the cross-roads where Sub-Saharan Africa meets Asia. It comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. According to the World Bank's August 2003 World Development Indicators, the Horn of Africa has a total population of about 82 m, an area of nearly 2 m sq kms and a coastline stretching for over 4000 kms.

The region is endowed with a strategic location, a base of requisite natural resources, hard working and resourceful peoples and a rich cultural diversity. Yet, despite its big geographic and population size and considerable potential embedded in its natural endowment, the region's present annual GDP per capita of less than USD 200 makes it one of the poorest in the world, lying at the bottom of the development index. Why? MORE...