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Rapprochement in the Horn of Africa: Narratives of Conflict and Reconciliation in Ethiopian-Eritrean Relations

TypeResearch Project
Hosting Institution(s)Centre for Area Studies, Leipzig University & University of Addis Ababa
Funding TermJuly 2019 - December 2020
CooperationAddis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Katharina Newbery’s DAAD PRIME project is titled ‘Rapprochement in the Horn of Africa: narratives of conflict and reconciliation in Ethiopian-Eritrean relations’. In July 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea ended a twenty-year period of open hostility and political stalemate. The objective of this research project is to analyse narratives of conflict and reconciliation in Ethiopian-Eritrean relations since the 1998-2000 war, to develop a better understanding of how the rapprochement has been made possible within official state discourse in both Addis Ababa and Asmara. After the war, interstate relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea were marked by politics of ‘othering’. This relationship has been regarded as integral to how both governments have sought to shape developments in the Horn of Africa, justified specific domestic and foreign policies, and narrated their respective state-identities. Against this background, the seeming ease of the rapprochement came as a big surprise to many observers of the region. This project builds on, and will contribute to, existing scholarship that uses narrative analysis and the concept of ontological security to understand how continuity and changes in foreign policies are made possible. It seeks to trace and analyse the discursive practices with which the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments gave meaning to their relations and the political impasse after the war, and how the narratives they form were adapted, and ‘openings’ created, to make an official policy change possible. In so doing, this research project explores how an analytical focus on the politics of representation can contribute to a better understanding of international political developments in the Horn of Africa. The study will build on primary research conducted in Addis Ababa and Asmara.

Biographical Note:
Katharina Newbery holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Bern, a MSc in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews (awarded without corrections in February 2019, https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/17462). Before beginning her PhD, Katharina worked for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Addis Ababa. For her PhD research in Ethiopia she was affiliated with the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, and the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute.