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Unionists and Separatists
The Vagaries of Ethio-Eritrean Relation, 1941-1991
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Based on a broad range of local and foreign archival sources, Shumet Sishagne’s Unionists and Separatists presents a comprehensive account of the history of Ethio-Eritrean relations over the last half of the twentieth century. Starting with the end of Italian colonialism in Eritrea in 1941 and the struggle that ensued thereafter to determine the future of Eritrea, the book traces the evolution of domestic and external forces that decisively influenced the Eritrean political landscape. It examines closely the circumstances behind the creation of the Ethio-Eritrean federation and the challenges that brought it down. It provides a vivid description of the birth and growth of the Eritrean insurgency, the course of the prolonged and bitter civil war between rival Eritrean guerrilla factions, the failure of the Ethiopian government’s handling of the problem in Eritrea, and the process through which the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) succeeded in imposing its hegemony over the Eritrean political arena. Unionists and Separatists is the definitive history of the tragic and complicated relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The devastating Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000, whose repercussions are still far from over, have put these two conflict-ridden Horn of Africa countries on the international spotlight. Yet, few people are either aware of or bother to investigate the historical roots of this recent conflict — roots that go back to the expulsion of the Italian colonial rulers from Eritrea in 1941. The publication of Shumet Sishagne’s book is therefore a salutary step in providing this much needed historical perspective. Based on exhaustive and comprehensive examination of archival material, official and insurgent publications, extensive interviews of protagonists as well as a critical examination of the secondary literature, Shumet has given us a masterly analysis of the tension between Unionism and Separatism, the troubled history of the Federation, the beginning of armed insurgency, the bloody feuds between the two fronts, ELF and EPLF (Jabha and Sha’abiya), and the final ascendancy of the latter leading ultimately to the attainment of de facto Eritrean independence in 1991.
--Bahru Zewde, author of A History of Modern Ethiopia
Professor Shumet Sishagne has written a remarkable appraisal of the history of the Eritrean nationalist movement. In a comprehensively documented analysis, he makes excellent use of archival sources, official and private papers, and interviews in explaining the history of Eritrea and its relation with Ethiopia including federation, annexation, and eventual independence. His lucid commentary covers Italian rule in Eritrea, British Military occupation, the connections to other external actors, and the origins of indigenous political groups and armed secessionists who gained control of the nation. This book is highly recommended for all readers who seek to understand the turbulent Horn of Africa.
--Theodore M. Vestal, author of Ethiopia: a Post-Cold War African State
Shumet Sishagne, is Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. Formerly a lecturer at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Dr. Shumet Sishagne has closely examined the history of political developments in Ethiopia and Eritrea in the post-Italian period. In addition to comprehensive interviews with some of the principal historical figures and participants, he has carried out extensive research in archives and libraries in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Italy, England, and the United States. His articles on the subject of Ethiopian irredentism and Eritrean nationalism, the role of foreign intervention in the struggle to determine Eritrea’s future, the rise and spread of the Eritrean insurgency, and the internecine wars within the Eritrean guerrilla movements are published in various journals and proceedings in English and Amharic.
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