6. The Horn of Africa in Quest for Harmonious Coexistence of State and Society

E-mail of panel organiser: redie.bereketeab@nai.uu.se

The Horn of Africa comprising Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti stands out as the most conflict ridden region in the African Continent. A multitude of factors are attributed to this state of condition. Some of the factors accounted for are the nature of the state, state-society relations, festering intra-and inter-state conflicts, underdevelopment, environmental degradation and external intervention.

All these factors coalesce to impact on governmentality and governance in the Horn of Africa. Governance broadly understood as encompassing all realms of social world relates above anything else to the state and its praxis. The nature of the state, either being the product of colonial artefact or reconstructed in the era of colonialism (Ethiopia) is the par excellence source of all the predicaments defining the Horn of Africa. This reality of the state engendered a constant distress in the state-society relation. The dialectics of interconnectivity of stress, for instance, between nature of the state and conflicts; environmental degradation and development; state-society relation, governmentality and governance; state legitimacy and societal participation and control of state affairs define and explain the poor governance performance in the HOA. Addressing these dichotomies of stress relations would in a way tackle the issue of governance and state-society harmonious coexistence.

Broadly, the issues the panel seeks to examine include:
·    State-society relations
·    Factors affecting governance
·    Role of civil society
·    Inter-ethnic relations
·    Inter-religious relations
·    Democracy, local governance, mass media, education
·    Alternative modality of governance
·    Resource, environment management and governance


1. State Legitimacy and Governance Performance in the Horn of Africa

Author: Redie Bereketeab (The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden)


The Horn of Africa consisting of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti is highly a conflict ridden region. A hallmark characterising the state in the HOA is lack of legitimacy. Legitimacy derives from both internal and external dimensions. In terms of external dimension, legitimacy is conferred upon the state by the world state system through endowing recognition to its quest for sovereignty and welcoming it as member of the international world state system. This is manifested in membership in various international organisations such as UN and regional organisations such as AU. It also is contingent on acceptable behaviours as perceived by big powers, and joining geostrategic alliances. In terms of internal dimension the state receives legitimacy from its own citizens. The latter refers to what is commonly described in the literature as social contract. The notion of social contract is contingent on the state-society relation. The presumption is while the state delivers security and various social service provisions, society responds by endowing legitimacy to the state. The ideal normative situation is that the state commands both external and internal legitimacy. Further citizenry democratic participation in state affairs enhances legitimacy. The reality is however rarely external and internal legitimacy matches.  Indeed, state legitimacy in the Horn of Africa is rather marked by its absence, in both regards. The paper seeks to examine what the status of state legitimacy in the HOA is, how it is fostered, what conditions disrupt social contract between state and society, how international intervention impinges on social contracted, and what the consequences are.

2. Who Owns the Waters of the Nile? Reflections on the Conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Ethiopian Grand Dam

Authors: Mekuria Bulcha (The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden) and Techane Bosona (The Swedish Agricutlutal University)


The Ethiopian state is involved in open and hidden conflicts over the waters of the Nile. The open conflict is conducted with Egypt while the hidden ones involve indigenous peoples such as the Oromo whose homeland constitutes the “water tower” of northeast Africa. However, the hostility between Ethiopia and Egypt over the waters of the Nile stretches over centuries. The threats of the ancient Abyssinian kings to divert the course of the Blue Nile from Egypt were, of course, mere bluff: they didn’t possess the technology to do that. Today the threat is becoming real through the construction of the Ethiopian Grand Dam (GD). The Egyptians are also threatening Ethiopia to defend their “rights” by any means.  But, the conflict raises many questions over the nature of the “rights” claimed by both sides: are these legal or moral rights? What about the rights of the indigenous peoples from whose lands more than 80 percent of the waters of the Blue Nile come? In this paper we will reflect on these questions, and also examine the discourse instigated by the conflict over the GD. We will argue that the accelerated destruction of forests and wetlands by land grabbers in Ethiopia is also posing a threat which, perhaps, is more serious than the threat being felt by the Egyptian because of the ongoing construction of the Grand Dam.

3. Conflicting political identities in Northern Somalia

Author: Giulio Di Domenicantonio (University of Salento, Italy) giulio.didomenicantonio@studenti.unisalento.it


This paper aims at analyzing the logic of political identification by individuals and groups in the context  of re-emerging state structures in northern Somalia. Current identities will be analyzed as political identities, which are both a product of and a driving force behind political and military conflict in the region.
Conflicts resulted from incompatible positions regarding the self-understanding and the political future of both de facto-states (Somaliland and Puntland), and their populations. Somaliland claims international recognition on grounds of territoriality complemented by a notion of a Somaliland national identity. Puntland, based on an alliance of different Daarood/Harti clans, works for the rebuilding of a unitary Somali government. Apart from this genealogical identity the Somali national identity is adhered to.
In northern Somalia the propaganda issued in the political centres but also discussions about and manifestations of political identity in daily life reflect the tensions between the Somaliland- and the Darood/Harti- respectively Somali identity.
These identities are not ethnic identities: they rather can be understood as political identities which are based on features resembling ethnic identities such as descent, history, individual experiences and collective memory.
These identities are also significantly connected with certain territories because the land in northern Somalia is divided between descent-groups. They combine existing identity markers in a particular way and are meaningful in the current political context of the area. Flexibility comes in because for each identity certain aspects of history, clan-relations and culture are highlighted, others are completely neglected.  Nevertheless, the relevance of these internal fragmentations diminishes and the identities form relatively clear blocks which divide the social, political and territorial landscape of northern Somalia today.

4. The impact of environmental degradation and conflict on traditional daily lives: The Case of Senhit provinc, Eritrea (1960s -1994)

Author: Kiflemariam Hamde Umeå University, Sweden)


The paper is a story of events that adversely affected people’s lives in a certain province called Senhit (now part of zoba Ansaba), Eritrea. It is a story that runs between the 1960s to the early 1990s. The events discussed here can be summarized as being caused simultaneously by environmental degradation (or habitat destruction) and conflict. The purpose here is to describe the material manifestations of environmental degradation and conflict leading to the collapse of the rural economy in Eritrea in general, taking the province as an example, and the ensuing consequences for human lives. The province is one of the most adversely affected areas during the war for independence in Eritrea (1961-1991) that also led to environmental degradation. These two concepts, environmental degradation and conflict, are also very closely related to two other concepts that have become concerns for the basic survival of human beings in this world: Sustainability and Development. Some of these concepts have become part of more exhaustive concerns that have engaged human beings all the time, but they have apparently become more prominent in research projects, political engagement, the mass media and at all levels (UN, 2005) - local, regional and global - in everyday conversation, influencing even personal and individual commitments (on consumption, thinking and acting ‘green’), groups (local environmentalist groups), and organizations, including the global. The paper is based on both secondary material on Eritrea n general and the Senhit province in general, and interviews with villagers in 1995, 1996, 2002, and 2006.

5. Rethinking Africa’s Democratization Approach: A Case Study of the Greater Horn of Africa

Author: Kidane Mengisteab (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)


Like many countries in other regions of the world, most African countries participated in the democratization wave that unfolded in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War. They adopted some of the institutions of liberal democracy, including liberalization of the press and multiparty systems and they have also expanded civil liberties and conducted regular elections.  However, over two decades after the democratization wave of the early 1990s the scope of democracy in much of the continent has remained rather shallow and non-inclusive. A number of structural conditions have continued to undermine the democratization process in these transitional societies. One is the fragmented economic and institutional systems that characterize these countries. The economies of most African countries range from relatively advanced capitalist system with modern banking systems and stock market exchanges to subsistent pastoral and peasant systems. The different economic systems operate under different institutions of governance with different notions of property rights, disparate resource allocation mechanisms, and distinct decision-making and conflict adjudication practices. For all practical purposes, African countries are characterized by parallel socioeconomic spaces. Another factor that has contributed in undermining the democratization effort is low levels of nation-building and the associated chronic state-identity and inter-identity conflicts.  A third factor is the weak state structures of checks and balances, which have led to concentration of power in the executive branch of government enabling it to govern with little accountability.  The current election-centered approach to democratization has not developed mechanisms to address these structural bottlenecks.  It is, thus, highly unlikely that it would succeed in advancing sustainable democratization in the continent. There is also hardly any coherent theory on how to build a democratic system under fragmented socioeconomic spaces.  Using the Greater Horn of Africa as a case, this paper attempts to explain the structural bottlenecks that the current democratization approach faces. The paper also attempts to contribute to bridging the theoretical gap by proposing a contextualized and comprehensive approach that addresses the key structural obstacles to effective democratization in transitional societies.


Author: Francis Ojonugwa ONU (Narasawa State University, Nigeria)


Conflict has been part of human existence from time immemorial. The contemporary Nigeria state is characterised by perennial conflicts, ranging from political, ethnic, and religious to mention these few. These conflicts have hindered attempts at achieving stable democracy to ensure socio-economic development of the country. Nigeria’s rural and urban communities have been turned into battle fields leading to unimaginable displacement of persons and materials. As human and economic capitals are frequently destroyed, large-scale poverty and underdevelopment becomes the order of the day. Using secondary data, the study attempts the analysis of the problems of inter-group conflict and the prospects of overcoming or reducing the frequency of these conflicts. It is the conclusion of the study that amongst other things, the lack of true and fiscal federalism, the dichotomy between indigene-settlers, poverty and illiteracy are factors contributing to these frequent inter-group hostilities. It is recommended therefore that there is an urgent need to address the issues of citizenship and to make political offices less attractive.

7. Locating the Indian Ocean: Notes on the Postcolonial Reconstitution of Space in Eastern Africa

Author: J.G. Prestholdt (University of Basel, Switzerland and University of California, USA)


The networks of human relation that define Africa’s Indian Ocean rim have undergone significant reconfiguration in the last half-century.  More precisely, the economic insularity of the Indian Ocean world has radically diminished, while the nation has both restricted movement and reoriented the political imaginations of people along the coast.  At the same time, the Indian Ocean has been revivified as a unit of social exchange, analysis, and diplomacy in eastern Africa, particularly since the end of the Cold War.  This paper explores the meaning of the Indian Ocean to Africa in the context of a multipolar world by focusing on how the dictates of postcolonial nations have transformed the ocean’s rim and how the petroleum economy as well as varied means of communication have engendered new linkages between Indian Ocean societies.  I argue that although the postcolonial era affected the closure of certain historical routes of Indian Ocean connectivity, relationships structured by contemporary nations, air travel, and new media have begun to reignite perceptions of regional coherency.  Indeed, multiple forms of ‘basin consciousness’ are slowly reversing the introverted politics of the early postcolonial era.  In short, the accelerated extroversion that defined the immediate post-Cold War era has contributed to the reanimation of Indian Ocean Africa as an idea and encouraged both imagined and substantive trans-Indian Ocean links, particularly with the Persian Gulf, India, and China.


Author: Marco Zoppi (University of Roskilde, Denmark)


This paper is concerned with the legitimacy challenges faced by the federalist structure of the Somali state, established with the constitution of July 2012. The Charter represents the latest attempt to re-establish peace and stability on a territory which has been torn by civil war and chaos for more than twenty years. However, the federalist project has to confront itself with the negative legacy of state’s institutions, seen by many locals as instruments of accumulation, intrusion and violence of few people against all the others. Similarly, the federalist structure has to contend the political power with the clan system, which has proved to be a much more reliable socio-political structure for the needs of everyday’s life, compared to the state. Therefore, the Somali Federal Government struggles for winning the confidence of its own population, while risks of unilateral secessions or autonomy claims, like for the case of Jubaland, make the government well aware of existing centrifugal tendencies in the country. Understanding federalism in Somalia, I argue, it’s not a simple question of political power distribution: there is also a dichotomy between a predominant European-based conceptualization of the state, on the one hand, and the bulk of often-neglected Somali notions of communitarian organization on the other, to which the clan is a part. If the decentralized structure of different but equal clans in Somali tradition seems to realize a certain convergence with the current federalist project, the dichotomy is rather evident when it comes to the definition of ‘(civil) society’ in Somalia. Thus, in order to assess both the progression of the federalist project, after almost two years from its launch, and the factual legitimacy it holds among the Somali population, this paper will focus on the definitional issue and its implications.

To the top