Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2007

Avoiding Conflict in the Horn of Africa: U.S. Policy Toward Ethiopia and Eritrea

Terrance Lyons

December 2006

Council on Foreign Relations


The greater Horn of Africa—including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda—is a region of strategic importance. It is also a region in crisis.

Tensions along the heavily militarized Ethiopian-Eritrean border escalated in late 2005 as Eritrea imposed new restrictions on the movement of the UN peacekeeping mission mandated to monitor the demilitarized zone established by the 2000 Algiers Agreement. These heightened border tensions, along with internal political turmoil in Ethiopia, increasing political repression in Eritrea, and recent developments in Somalia raise the likelihood of heightened instability in the Horn of Africa that could lead to significant loss of life.

Avoiding Conflict in the Horn of Africa: U.S. Policy Toward Ethiopia and Eritrea, commissioned by the Council’s Center for Preventive Action and written by Terrence Lyons, presents a full picture of what is going on in this neglected part of the world and suggests what the United States needs to do to address the multiple challenges to stability. The report calls for a dialogue with Ethiopia and Eritrea to resolve the border conflict, something that would also contribute to stability in Somalia. The case for trying is a good one, as the report makes clear that failure to resolve the Ethiopian-Eritrean dispute could exacerbate governance, health, and humanitarian problems, and set back U.S. efforts to fight terrorists, who are increasingly drawn to the area.