Assertive foreign policy in a ‘bad neighbourhood’: Eritrean foreign policy making

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Abstract: This paper interrogates certain aspects of Eritrean foreign policy making processes since independence. It analyses Eritrea’s actions in the region, ranging from constructive engagement to the country’s various conflicts with all its regional neighbours, including the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia, and Eritrea’s wider global attempts at diplomatic and foreign policy engagement. The paper argues that while Eritrea’s assertive and often rather un-diplomatic foreign policy overtures are partly to blame for the country’s negative image as an international actor, any attempt at developing an independent foreign policy by Eritrea needs at the same time be understood within the wider context of the Horn of Africa and the Ethiopian ambition to act as and maintain the status as regional hegemon. Thus, Eritrean foreign policy objectives were always bound to run into problems once they diverged from Ethiopia’s own interests. In addition, Ethiopia became an increasingly important actor in the global war on terror and its manifestations in the Horn of Africa, thus its interpretation of and intransigence over relations with Eritrea became the dominant representation of Eritrea as an inherently belligerent state. Such a reading ignores that ultimately Eritrea’s foreign policy engagement asserts the right of every nation to defend its own interests in light of international law and global treaties, regardless of global power dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Eritrean Studies, 20-22 July 2016, Proceedings
EditorsZemenfes Tsighe, Saleh Mahmud Idris, Yonas Mesfun Asfaha, Senai Woldeab Andemariam, Rediet Kifle Taddesse, Ghebrebrhan Ogubazghi
Place of PublicationAsmara
PublisherNational Higher Education and Research Institute
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-99948-2-000-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018

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  • Global Development Institute


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