University of Erfurt

Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt

Projekt von Dr. Haile Muluken Akalu

Pre-colonial, Colonial and Postcolonial Cartographic Trajectories Underpinning Ethiopia’s Boundary Conflicts with Somalia and the Sudan

The precolonial, colonial and postcolonial period in the Horn of Africa witnessed catastrophic interstate conflicts either because of or on the pretext of controversial boundaries. The adversarial relations Ethiopia had with Somalia and the Sudan in the post-independence period can be attributed to complicated pre-colonial processes, colonial boundary agreements, mutually irreconcilable economic and political ambitions of the three countries and the undue influence of third party states. Although some scholars investigated the boundary conventions, the complexity of the boundary problems has not been investigated in light of developments before and after the signing of boundary conventions. The still controversial international boundaries Ethiopia shares with Somalia and the Sudan could be a source of renewed conflict. The ongoing high profile intergovernmental discussions between Ethiopia and the Sudan on the boundary question and the intense politicization of the issue by various actors points to the magnitude of the real world problem this study addresses itself to.  Through investigating the broad history of political maps based on pre-colonial and colonial cartographic depictions, the project seeks to achieve a result usable for academic and practical purposes. The immensely rich cartographic data available at Gotha Research Center, which, among other things, houses field notes and side notes used by nineteenth century map makers, offers a unique opportunity to realize the research objectives. The outcomes of the research will be communicated to stakeholders in the form of a monograph, journal articles and policy brief papers.


Dr. Haile Muluken Akalu is Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History and Heritage Management, College of Social Sciences and Languages, Mekelle University. His research focuses on themes of legal and diplomatic history. His postdoctoral research at Gotha Research Center of Erfurt University deals with the dynamics of boundary disputes in the Horn of Africa. The project has been graciously financed by Herzog-Ernst-Scholarship.



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