Proposal for Breaking Eritrea – Ethiopia Deadlock from Chatham House

Chatham House is largely known to us for playing host to a number of anti-Eritrea events. Its 2007 report under the title “Eritrea’s Economic Survival” was the one that comes to our mind when we heard the name Chatham House. In that report, they proudly professed “Eritrea’s economy is slowly grinding to a halt … and will collapse in few months.”  Turns out the economy was not only doing great but also named one of the fastest growing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Reader’s judgement is requested when reading the below report too.

A report from Chatham House by Jason Mosley "Eritrea and Ethiopia: Beyond the Impasse"
A new report from Chatham House by Jason Mosley “Eritrea and Ethiopia: Beyond the Impasse”

By Chatham House,

AFTER a decade-long stalemate between Eritrea and Ethiopia, there is now an opportunity for international engagement in the region to foster improved long-term relations.

The author of the briefing paper, Jason Mosley, an Associate Fellow for Africa Programme at the Chatham House, will argue that an over-focus on the border dispute and demarcation by international interlocutors has been counterproductive, and has distracted from more nuanced and constructive engagements in other matters. He will suggest that by engaging with Ethiopia and Eritrea individually, rather than making short-term attempts to promote dialogue between the two countries, the international community could be far more effective. 

Mr. Mosley also said the report about the assumptions underlying much analysis about the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, it was wrong to consider President Isaias Afwerki acted irrationally or against the interests of the Eritrean state in relation to the findings of the Boundary Commission.  Mr Mosley said his strategy might be poor, but not without logic. 

Summary

• Opportunities exist for external efforts to foster improved relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This will involve questioning some of the underlying assumptions about their conflict and current regional dynamics. A fresh approach should involve engagement with each country individually, rather than immediate attempts to promote dialogue between them.

• The initial focus should be on promoting the conditions in each country for an eventual confident re-engagement with the other. It is important to avoid a narrow focus on the specifics of the border conflict, and post-conflict boundary demarcation, which has hitherto dominated external engagement.

• Economic incentives are central to enabling improved relations between the two states. However, the prospective economic benefits of re-opening the border will not be the initial catalyst for improved ties given that economic considerations were insufficient to prevent the war.

• International engagement on areas of mutual interest, especially on trade and investment, could go some way to fostering a sense in Eritrea of stable economic sovereignty in the face of Ethiopia’s economic and demographic predominance.

• Waiting for a change of leadership before making significant efforts to engage is untenable. There is no guarantee that subsequent leaders would adopt a significantly different foreign policy

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