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  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eritrea has been deeply troubled since independence in 1991. Following the devastating war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), an authoritarian, militarised regime has further tightened political space, tolerating neither opposition nor dissent. Relations are difficult with the region and the wider international community. At African Union (AU) behest, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions in 2009 for its support of the Somali Islamic insurgency. It has become, in effect, a siege state, whose government is suspicious of its own population, neighbours and the wider world. Economically crippled at birth, it is a poor country from which tens of thousands of youths are fleeing, forming large asylum-seeking communities in Europe and North America. But Eritrea is an extreme reflection of its region's rough political environment, not its sole spoiler. More effort to understand the roots of its suspicions and greater engagement rather than further isolation would be a more promising international prescription for dealing with the genuine risks it represents.
  • Topic: Islam, United Nations, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, North America, Ethiopia, Eritrea
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by its chairman and prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has radically reformed Ethiopia's political system. The regime transformed the hitherto centralised state into the Federal Democratic Republic and also redefined citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds. The intent was to create a more prosperous, just and representative state for all its people. Yet, despite continued economic growth and promised democratisation, there is growing discontent with the EPRDF's ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter- ethnic conflict. The international community should take Ethiopia's governance problems much more seriously and adopt a more principled position towards the government. Without genuine multi-party democracy, the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia's polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilise the country and region.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Political Economy, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Ethiopia-Eritrea impasse carries serious risk of a new war and is a major source of instability in the Horn of Africa, most critically for Somalia. Following Ethiopia's refusal to accept virtual demarcation of the border by the now disbanded Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC), Asmara unilaterally imple­men­ted it and forced out the UN peacekeepers (UNMEE), significantly raising the stakes and shattering the status quo. Its insistence on recovering terri­tory the Commission awarded it – Badme in particular – could lead to unilateral military action by either side but is only one of several war scenarios. The Security Council and key individual states (the U.S., in particular) must recognise the dangers of their inaction and advance a reconfigured political process with new determination if there is to be a change in the calculations of the parties, who appear to be dangerously content with trying to maintain a level of simmering but unpredictable hostility.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Security, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Since 1991 Somalia has been the archetypal failed state. Several attempts to create a transitional set-up have failed, and the current one is on the brink of col-lapse, overtaken yet again by an Islamist insurgency, despite the support of an Ethiopian military intervention since December 2006. Over the last two years the situation has deteriorated into one of the world's worst humanitarian and security crises. The international community is preoccupied with a symptom – the piracy phenomenon – instead of concentrating on the core of the crisis, the need for a political settlement. The announced Ethiopian withdrawal, if it occurs, will open up a new period of uncertainty and risk. It could also provide a window of opportunity to relaunch a credible political process, however, if additional parties can be persuaded to join the Djibouti reconciliation talks, and local and international actors – including the U.S. and Ethiopia – accept that room must be found for much of the Islamist insurgency in that process and ultimately in a new government dispensation.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Post Colonialism, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Ethiopia, Somalia
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The next few weeks will go far to determining whether Ethiopia and Eritrea resume a path toward war - which took some 100,000 lives between 1998 and 2000 - or solidify their peace agreement. Ethiopia must decide whether to allow demarcation of the border to begin in October 2003 even though the international Boundary Commission set up under the Algiers agreement that ended the fighting has ruled that the town of Badme - the original flashpoint of the war - is on the Eritrean side. The outcome will have profound implications for both countries and the entire Horn of Africa, as well as for international law and the sanctity of binding peace agreements and arbitration processes. The international community, particularly the U.S., the African Union (AU), and the European Union (EU), all of which played major roles in brokering the Algiers agreement, need to engage urgently to help Ethiopia move the demarcation forward and to assist both parties to devise a package of measures that can reduce the humanitarian costs of border adjustments and otherwise make implementation of the demarcation more politically palatable.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, United Nations, War
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, North Africa, Ethiopia
  • Publication Date: 02-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Within the last two months, thanks to the active engagement of the facilitation team, Burundi's peace process has exceeded expectations. Momentum has never been so strong since the civil war began ten years ago. On 3 December 2002, the transitional government led by President Buyoya signed a landmark ceasefire agreement with the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie – Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) of Jean- Pierre Nkurunziza. This complemented the ceasefire reached two months earlier with two minor rebel groups (the CNDD-FDD faction led by Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL faction led by Alain Mugabarabona). On 27 January 2003, the government and the three rebel groups signed an additional memorandum of understanding establishing a Joint Ceasefire Commission and setting a date for the return of Mugarabona and Ndayikengurukiye to Burundi. An African Union force with South African, Ethiopian and Mozambican troops is to be deployed in the next few weeks.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Welfare, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa, Ethiopia, Burundi