Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia’s new alliance must complement existing structures and not exacerbate distrust and undermine integration.

The new regional cooperation between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia comes amid a long history of distrust and unresolved boundary disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Djibouti and Eritrea, and Kenya and Somalia. It also comes on the heels of internationally praised rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In July 2018, neighbours Eritrea and Ethiopia ended their two decades of no war, no peace over the 1998-2000 border dispute war. A few weeks later, Eritrea and Somalia agreed to resume diplomatic relations, ending over a decade of tensions. Since 2006, Somalia has accused Eritrea of supporting the Islamic militant rival group to the transitional government in Mogadishu while Ethiopian troops were supporting the latter.

In September 2018, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia held their first meeting to build comprehensive cooperation, resulting in a joint commitment to build closer political, economic, social and security ties and promote regional peace and security.

Many observers have wondered about the motivation behind this new alliance and its impact on interstate relations in the Horn of and East Africa, and what it means for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional body.