U.S. Leadership in Resolving African Conflict: The Case of Ethiopia-Eritrea

Published: 
September 7, 2001
By: 
John Prendergast

John Prendergast was part of the facilitation team behind the two-and-a-half-year U.S. effort to broker an end to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This report is the final installment of a five-part series on African conflicts, the previous four of which were also published by the Institute as Special Reports during Prendergast's tenure as an Institute executive fellow.

Summary

  • The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea was one of a series of conflicts erupting at the end of the past decade that contributed greatly to undermining earlier optimism for the prospects of a hoped-for "African Renaissance."
  • The conflict was extremely destructive, killing over one hundred thousand people in World War I-style trench warfare carried out with modern weaponry.
  • From the outset of the conflict, President Clinton decided that the United States would play a major role in attempting to broker a settlement.
  • The president's special envoy, Anthony Lake, backed by a team from the National Security Council, State Department, and Defense Department, worked closely with Organization for African Unity and European Union envoys in resolving the conflict.
  • The close partnership between the United States, European Union, and Organization for African Unity could be a model for U.S.-Africa teamwork in future mediating efforts. The parties had little recourse but to stay with this process, as no competing initiative would be countenanced by a united international community.
  • Early and continuous engagement between the mediators and the UN secretary general ensured that nothing in the peace agreement would pose too great a challenge to the follow-on peace implementation mission.
  • The Ethiopia-Eritrea case demonstrates that high-level, sustained, continuous U.S. engagement in peacemaking in Africa can have a major positive impact. The case also demonstrates the importance of multilateral, coordinated leverage in the form of significant carrots and sticks.

 

About the Report

John Prendergast was part of the facilitation team behind the two-and-a-half-year U.S. effort to broker an end to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This report is the final installment of a five-part series on African conflicts, the previous four of which were also published by the Institute as Special Reports during Prendergast's tenure as an Institute executive fellow.

Prendergast is currently co-director of the Africa Program at the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C. Previously he worked as director for Africa at the National Security Council and special adviser on African conflicts at the State Department.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.

September 7, 2001