Religious Tension in the Horn of Africa


Religious hostilities in Ethiopia and Eritrea have posed challenges for quite a long period. Such religious disputes have been threatening peace and stability in the nations and the whole region. This study discusses the perspectives that exist regarding the supposition that religious hostilities create global unsteadiness, progress to the conflicting position that religious conflicts are bettering between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and after all show the concentration of the US on Ethiopia, in addition to Eritrea. Religious hostilities between Christianity and Islam in the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia weaken the amity in the countries and the whole area. The religious hostilities that have brought about most of the unsteadiness in the area are starting to dwindle. The religious war has been the major motive behind unsteadiness in the countries at the Horn of Africa.

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The government of Ethiopia has relocated a lot of Muslims though it keeps on asserting that they are welcome on condition that they do not endeavor to oblige other people to follow their religious standpoints. The most terrible notion is the discernment of Eritrea as an impediment that should be either controlled or sacrificed with respect to activities or demonstrated interests in Ethiopia. The excellent position of Eritrea along the Red Sea and in the Horn of Africa is of incredible interest to the US. Likewise, Ethiopia is of essential interest to the United States.

Religious Tension in the Horn of Africa


Religious conflicts in Ethiopia and Eritrea have been a challenge for quite a long period. Such religious hostilities have and may keep on threatening global stability in the nations and the entire region. Ethiopia is presently going through a religious change that might be of high importance across the region. Christianity is the main religious group in Ethiopia while the nation of Eritrea is divided between Muslims and Christians, though largely Muslims (Lewis, 2013). Geographically, Muslims dominate in the western and eastern regions of Eritrea whilst Christians are the majority in the uplands. The Sunni Muslims reside along the eastern region of Ethiopia while the Christians occupy the remaining regions of the nation. The position of Eritrea is strategic for being alongside the Red Sea; it is among the busiest transportation and distribution lanes across the globe thus resulting in the Horn of Africa region being globally significant. A section of the boundary separating Ethiopia and Eritrea remains in a striking dispute to date.

Purpose and Scope

This study will seek to discuss the perspectives that exist about the hypothesis that religious hostilities generate global unsteadiness, progress to the conflicting standpoint that religious conflicts are bettering between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and finally present the attention of the US on Ethiopia and Eritrea. The study will as well encompass implications and consequences of unsteadiness in the area and offer the structured analytic methods that were employed with the purpose of generating the dissimilar standpoints of the thesis.


Religious conflicts between Christianity and Islam in the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia may threaten the peace in the countries and the whole area. The conflicts emanate from the majority of Christians in the government of Ethiopia and the Muslim supported armed forces and the government of Eritrea. Numerous conflicts involving the two nations started at around 1961 and have so far made the residents in the countries harbor hard feelings towards each other. Warfare between Ethiopia and Eritrea occurred from around mid-1998 to mid-2000, which was one of the most hostile disputes in the Horn of Africa. The warfare resulted in further destabilization in the area, bleeding over into other nations, for instance, Djibouti, Somali, and Sudan.

Initial Viewpoint

Both Eritrea and Ethiopia have a lengthy account of colonization from the Italians, Soviets, and the British. Subsequent to the British leaving Eritrea in 1951, they suggested that Eritrea be split along religious divisions with Christianity to Ethiopia and Islam to Sudan. On this note, there erupted a great controversy and the emergence of groupings such as the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) (Lewis, 2013). At around 1970, numerous massacres happened in Eritrea where whole communities of Christians and Muslims were wiped out.

Religious hostilities have been the major reason behind unsteadiness in the countries at the Horn of Africa (Lewis, 2013). Ethiopian and Eritrean religious believers openly give monetary and material backing to rebel racial and religious organizations in the nations to engage in a proxy battle. The religious hostilities have resulted in warfare during insecurity, independence, and economic dispute in the region. The two nations keep on condemning one another of contravening boundary accords.

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They permit their land to be employed for training and recruitment by the rebels, in addition to other unruly actions by the religious supported subversive groupings; for instance, Eritrea has a record of backing rebellious Islamic groupings such as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). A fragment grouping created from the UIC and referred to as the Al-Shabaab has waged an armed warfare in opposition to Ethiopia; at some point, Eritrea even declared a link with Al Qaeda. The two nations ensure a high level of readiness with their armed forces along the boundaries through which unrest may burst out at any point in time.

Opposing Viewpoint

The religious conflicts that have brought about most of the instability in the area are starting to decrease. The conflicts arose when every one of the countries started employing proxy rebels, for instance, Islamic radicals, to engage in their warfare. However, for four consecutive years, there has been no intelligence associating Eritrea with the Al-Shabaab. “Evidence and intelligence reports are stating that armed Ethiopian insurgent groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front and Ogaden National Liberation Front, have largely declined due to, among other things, their inability to remain cohesive” (Shinn & Cohen, 2014, para. 4). Ethiopia is a democratic nation constituted of eighty dissimilar nationalities with every one of them having varied cultural backgrounds and indigenous customs (Ethiopia and the U.S., 2008).

For centuries, the followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in Ethiopia have existed together harmoniously (Goitom & Tronvoll, 2013). The government of Ethiopia has displaced a lot of Muslims though it keeps on saying that they are welcome on condition that they do not attempt to compel other people to follow their religious perspectives.

The United States Interest

The US interest in Eritrea has been fraught since its commencement (Shinn & Cohen, 2014). The relations between the two nations have been both enhanced and outdone by the ones with Ethiopia, and nearly every time to the disadvantage of Eritrea. Initially, this occurred due to the international projection of the US military in the course of and immediately subsequent to World War II. The US interest in Eritrea has since persisted and in most cases, the United States has seen Ethiopia as its prime strategic partner in the Horn of Africa. On this note, the US has a tendency of dealing with Eritrea as a thing between a minor asset and reconsideration. An awful notion is the perception of Eritrea as a hindrance to be either controlled or sacrificed with respect to activities or expressed interests in Ethiopia.

For Eritrea, there is significance in sequencing but from the view of the United States interest, connection involving movement on the boundary conflict and democratization, adorning one with the purpose of attaining the other, is crucial. The United States should move aggressively to terminate the row and religious hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea (Merhatsidk, 2012). In reality, making evident the dedication of the US to democracy and esteem for fundamental and human rights in Eritrea is the means to realizing the concurrence of Ethiopia in the resolution of boundary and religious conflicts.

It is significant as it tackles the rising disaffection amid the Eritrean religions and the fall into authoritarianism, and it permits the nation to change its political program. Ethiopia needs to comprehend this and permit the US to make the attempt. This would be possible through first compelling Ethiopia to execute and settle border disputes. The US could present incentives to the two sides to end the religious conflicts, and it would not just be pleasant but also essential to each other.

The strategic position of Eritrea along the Red Sea and in the Horn of Africa is of tremendous interest to the US. The US started diplomatic associations with Eritrea around 1993, subsequent to its independence and disconnection from Ethiopia. The US backed the independence of Eritrea, but continuing government detainment of political rebels and others, closing of the independent press, restriction on civil freedoms, and rejection of a proposed United States Ambassador by Eritrea stress the United States-Eritrea dealings. The dictatorial government of Eritrea is run fully by the president, who leads the only political party in the country, which has been in power from 1991 because national polls have not happened since then (Merhatsidk, 2012).

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The interests of the United States in Eritrea encompass the reconciliation of the persisting conflicts with Djibouti and Ethiopia, advocating progress toward a democratic, political civilization, alluding to, and handling human rights concerns, enhancing economic transformation, and facilitating Eritrea to take part in regional peace and stability (Ethiopia and the U.S., 2008). The US is as well a vital economic investor in the nation and is thus concerned with its existing peace and stability. The United States does not just invest money in the nation but as well supplies it with humanitarian support. The charitable support is in dispute due to the concern of infringements on human rights.

Similarly, Ethiopia is of critical interest to the US, and the relations between the two countries were started by the United States president, Theodore Roosevelt. The relations involving the United States and Ethiopia were officially set up in 1903 subsequent to conferences that lasted for nine days. For over a century now, the US and Ethiopia have benefited from ardent relations involving their governments and people (Merhatsidk, 2012). Such relations have resulted in the sharing of resources, and the powerful ties of affiliation and alliance have persisted, unimpeded by respective alterations in government. Ethiopia values the interest that the United States has in the country and that the US does not come with colonial devices akin the ones that were being pursued all through Africa by the European authorities.

The discussions involving the United States and Ethiopia have resulted in a mutually-signed agreement referred to as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Through the treaty, Ethiopia received the reputation of the Most Favored Nation, which ultimately resulted in full diplomatic associations amid the two nations. For over two millenaries, Ethiopia has been a sovereign nation; it is the only country in Africa that was never under colonial rule (Shinn & Cohen, 2014). Currently, the country enjoys a strong affiliation with the US and is a dear partner in the warfare against terror. Ethiopia acts as the backbone of tranquility in the Horn of Africa, an area of crucial national stability interests for the US.

The United States has stronger ties and deals with Ethiopia as compared to the ones with Eritrea. The United States gives billions of funds for nonlethal forces and training, as well as charitable and development support to the nation, for example, it employs martial fields in Ethiopia with its novel Africom operations (Merhatsidk, 2012). The United States as well has trade deals with Ethiopia with respect to the import of Niger seeds, coffee, and textile and the export of machinery, wheat, airplanes, low-value consignments and repaired merchandise, and vegetables.

The United States attempts to stay fair and unprejudiced in terms of the religious disagreements and hostilities. Nonetheless, sometimes it fails to mull over the region when it becomes engaged in other hostilities in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt. “America’s short-sighted strategies are the main reasons behind the unbalanced military and diplomatic capabilities of the upper and lower basins of the Nile River” (Merhatsidk, 2012, para. 6). The US advocates for stability in the area since it is the major channel for trade and crude oil between the East and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the United States uses the Red Sea as a center for its naval military encompassing airplane shippers, destroyers, as well as nuclear submarines.

Implications and Consequences

The nations need a symbiotic association to retain stability in the area. Ethiopia wants the access via Eritrea to the harbor of the Red Sea while Eritrea relies on the natural resources in Ethiopia and has been financially benefiting. The two nations need a mutual affiliation since it ensures that they keep benefiting from one another. They require the harbor for enhanced access to the oil resources in the Middle East and global operations (Shinn & Cohen, 2014). Global trade will be facilitated on account of both countries having easy access to the harbor of the Red Sea, and Eritrea acts as the natural outlet to the Sea for Ethiopia. If a resolution involving the two nations is not settled, it may incite another futile confrontation, disturb tranquility and security in the area, and inflict a massive cost in loss of lives, money, and suffering on individuals that have already endured too much.


Though the affiliation involving Eritrea and Ethiopia has been bettering in the course of the past couple of years, there is still no tranquility. The proof being greatly inclined towards religious hostilities is enormous with the persistence of the “no war, no peace” idea. The anticipation for a resolution hangs on Ethiopia; the time that Ethiopia will permit Eritrea to operate as other nations in the Horn of Africa will lead to great stability in the region. On the contrary, every one of the nations alleges being more accommodating of other religious beliefs and races, though with conditions. The interest of the United States in the region is financially stimulated, requiring carrying on the stream of oil and other supplies through the harbor of the Red Sea.

Structured Analytics Used

The initial method that was utilized in this study is brainstorming. This method enabled the application of dissimilar notions and putting them down on paper to ensure solid subjects for the study. A different method that was used encompassed sorting and researching, which was accomplished by considering the dissimilar nations in the Horn of Africa. After a selection of the countries to be concentrated on, a search for their cultural and religious dissimilarities followed. The greatest topic that emerged with respect to the two nations was religious beliefs and religious hostilities. Religion played a vital function in the two nations as they laid their foundations for success; they are still relevant to date.

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The study employed a competing hypothesis to the initial perspective to generate the opposing view. Moreover, the Event Tree was applied to generate the possible sequence of actions that resulted in the likely deductions and consequences of the used hypotheses.


Ethiopia and the U.S. (2008). Embassy of Ethiopia, Washington D. C. Web.

Goitom, G., & Tronvoll, K. (2013). Ethiopia and Eritrea: Brothers at war no more. Web.

Lewis, M. (2013). Religious change and tension in Ethiopia. Web.

Merhatsidk, M. (2012). Stronger America needs stronger Ethiopia. Web.

Shinn, D., & Cohen, H. (2014). Veteran former U.S. envoys urge refocus on U.S., Eritrea, Ethiopia relations. Web.

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