In this paper I have applied root narrative theory to the case of conflict in Eritrea, a small African country along the Red Sea that has been embroiled in conflict with its neighbors and the international community on and off since at least 1961. Examining a small sample of representative texts from the government of Eritrea and from international critics of the regime, I demonstrate that these parties—different moral languages that make it almost impossible for each side to see the point of view of the other. Using the semiotic structure of the story system implied by root narrative theory I point out possible moves that both international actors and interested scholars and journalist could make to improve relationships with Eritrea, which has been erroneously maligned with the title, “the North Korea of Africa.” I’ve titled this paper struggle and martyrdom to signal the most efficient way to come to terms with the current leadership of Eritrea. Any policy proposal or technical solution that is not in some way compatible with the Liberation narrative implied by this imagery will be bitterly opposed, not only in the short term but also into the foreseeable future.

Author Bio(s)

Solon Simmons is an Associate Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University with a Ph.D. in sociology who specializes in the study of narrative, radical disagreement, reconciliation, and discourse analysis. He is the author of several books, including his most recent Root Narrative Theory and Conflict Resolution; Power, Justice and Values.


Power, Identity, Narrative, Values, Conflict Resolution, Eritrea

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