Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Legal Studies

Reader 1

Peter Uvin

Rights Information

© 2017 Natan Sebhatleab


This paper examines the Eritrean-Ethiopian border conflict as a modern case study concerning the shortcomings of international law. It examines the history between the two countries and how the conflict emerged despite strong social and cultural ties between the two. After a 30-year long war where Eritrea gained its independence, a brief period of peace was overcome by war and tension. A United Nations (UN) commission tasked with distributing the disputed lands to its rightful owner ruled that the lands belonged to Eritrea and the UN Security Council (UNSC) agreed to enforce this ruling. Ethiopia re-occupied it and the UNSC has yet to act.

This essay looks at a range of international legal theories and tries to explain this case using these concepts. These include realism, neo-realism, liberalism, constructivism, and critical legal studies. This paper concludes neo-realism and critical legal studies accurately depict the events. This paper looks at the shared characteristics between these two theories and what they tell us about the status of international law. These findings indicate imbalanced power structures and a world where the powerful can impose their will on the weak with little ramifications.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.