A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea explained – NYTimes.com

In Nonsense, Politics on March 28, 2012 at 06:00

War Over a One-Horse Town

About 125 millennia ago, the southern end of the strait between Africa and Arabia was much narrower, and may have been the springboard for one of early humanity’s great migratory leaps. [1] A big deal for everyone who has come along since, but the question of where, exactly, those first people out of Africa came from matters immensely to two very antagonistic neighbors. At this moment, in some Internet chat room, the locals are fighting over the nationality of those Red Sea pedestrians: did they originate in Eritrea, or in Ethiopia?

Hyperbole perhaps, but not by much. Few countries harbor as much mutual enmity as Ethiopia and Eritrea (which won its independence over the former in 1993, after a 40-year struggle, by helping to topple Ethiopia’s military junta), and they haggle over the seemingly smallest distinction. Pedigree, both personal and national [2], is a prominent subject in the war of words between these East African nations, across a border that, several years after they stopped fighting, is still “hot,” relatively new and fiercely contested.

The region’s recorded history goes back to 2500 B.C., when it was known to the Egyptians as Punt [3]. In the intervening centuries, countless empires rose and fell, their legacies providing ample ammunition for today’s competing national narratives.


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