Council on Foreign Relations Commissions Report from Conflict Analysis Professor

Posted: December 21, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By James Greif

Terrence Lyons
Terrence Lyons

Crisis has plagued the countries that make up the region known as the Horn of Africa for decades. This region in Northeast Africa – including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – faces natural disasters, droughts, floods and malnutrition. Because of these issues, the Horn of Africa is constantly in a state of humanitarian crisis, complicated by unstable governance.

Terrence Lyons, associate professor at Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, has studied the Horn of Africa for more than 20 years. Lyons recently wrote a report, “Avoiding Conflict in the Horn of Africa: U.S. Policy Toward Ethiopia and Eritrea,” which was commissioned by the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. The report, aimed at U.S. foreign policymakers, calls for a more comprehensive U.S. policy and makes several recommendations that could help stabilize the region.

“U.S. foreign policymakers have looked at the conflicts in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the global war against terrorism,” Lyons says. “I believe it is more accurate to look at the conflict as a regional, political conflict in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. The most important thing that the United States can do to achieve peace in the region is to push for a multilateral, diplomatic framework and press for a political solution as opposed to a military solution.”

The Eritrean-Ethiopian War, which occurred from 1998 to 2000, appears to be resuming, with Ethiopian and Eritrean forces supporting opposing sides of a conflict in nearby Somalia. Failure to settle the conflict could worsen governance, health and humanitarian problems. It could also complicate efforts to fight terrorists, who have been increasingly attracted to the area, according to Lyons.

“Washington has few good options to address the emergent threats in Somalia,” Lyons writes in the report. “There are, however, opportunities to push for full implementation of the peace agreement that ended the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict, which can help dampen the dynamic that contributes to escalation within Somalia.”

The Council on Foreign Relations approached Lyons because of his numerous writings on the region and his experience with the Carter Center as an observer of the 2005 elections in Ethiopia. Lyons hopes the report will help policymakers understand the conflict and employ strategies that will encourage peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea and resolve the dispute in Somalia.

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