The Conflict and State Building in the Horn of Africa -research project was established at the Nordic Africa Institute in January 2010. The project examines Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
The project has four research focuses.
The modern state being the product of colonialism or emerged in the colonial era is characterized by on one hand exclusion and domination on the other. Many aspects of societal life are excluded and marginalized rendering state-society relation precarious, and this generates conflicts. The state of conflict in turn adversely affects the formation, shaping and reshaping of the state, thus creating a vicious circle.
An underpinning argument informing this research focus is that there is interplay between the rampant conflicts ravaging the region and the nature of the state.
The history of the Horn of Africa unequivocally demonstrates that intra-state conflicts readily spill over to inter-state conflicts. Conversely inter-state conflicts also aggravate or even create domestic or intra-state conflicts.
Intra-state conflicts, for instance, besetting Sudan since 1955 and besetting Ethiopia since 1960 became sources of inter-state conflicts between the two countries, as both countries were engaged in proxy wars against each other.
Domestic conflicts in Somalia and Ethiopia also degenerated into two inter-state wars (1964 and 1977/8) between the two countries. The latter Ethio-Somali inter-state war also ultimately led to the collapse of the Somali state.
The piecemeal approach of mediation and conflict resolution pursued by mediators usually fails to bring peace, stability and security.
For example, the comprehensive peace agreement signed between the ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement failed to bring peace to Sudan because in spite of the word comprehensive added to the labelling of the Agreement, it focused on bilateral north-south relationships instead of bringing on board all the regions ravaged by the conflicts. When it became clear then that the south Sudan problem was receiving special attention, Darfur exploded followed by Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
The focus on the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia also failed to bring peace in Somalia because it excluded other stakeholders. Moreover, ignoring the Ethiopia–Eritrea conflict negatively influenced the search of peace in Somalia. It also aggravated the intra-state conflicts in the countries.
All this shows that unless we pursue a holistic, regional and comprehensive approach to conflict resolution we will not be able to bring durable and lasting solutions to the complex and rampant conflicts in the region.
The Horn of Africa is the region in the African continent that has been hit the most and for a long time by external intervention. The first intervention in the post-colonial period was Cold War superpower rivalry that converted the region into a playground for geo-strategic and ideological competition of the two superpowers. The region witnessed unprecedented flow of massive sophisticated modern weapons which were used by client states against each other but also against domestic oppositions.
The division into clientalism of the state of the region and the self-serving regular shift of alliance rendered the region highly volatile. When the Cold War ended it was replaced by the global war on terror and war against piracy. The global war on terror that brought the world’s naval forces to the region also converted the region into the most unstable one.
The latest form of the external intervention is what has come to be known as the scramble for resources.
Redie Bereketeab is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Uppsala university. Currently he is working as senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute where he runs a research project on conflict and state building in the Horn of Africa. His research interests include state, state building, nation, nationalism, identity, conflict, development and governance.
Photos: Marja Tiilikainen
The research project on Conflict and State Building in the Horn of Africa was established at the Nordic Africa Institute in January 2010. Its focus is on Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
The main objectives of the project include carrying out research on conflicts and state building, publishing research outcomes, organizing conferences and seminars, and creating research networks and cooperation with scholars and researchers in the region and the Nordic countries.
Since its establishment the project has organized four conferences and a number of seminars. Three of the conferences were held in the region.
Moreover, a book and several articles and book chapters have already been published. Two latest activities that took place as part of the research project were a seminar at the Nordic Africa Institute titled “The Horn of Africa at Crossroads” on 6 May 2014 and a meeting of scholars and researchers in Finland in cooperation with the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki on 13 May 2014.
Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Minister of International Development of Finland was one of the speakers in Uppsala. The seminar deliberated on the current situation and future prospects. The meeting of scholars and researchers in Helsinki discussed in detail issues of networking and research cooperation among researchers based in Finland and the Nordic Africa Institute.