Friday, January 27, 2012

Conflict in the Horn of Africa

The Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington organized a group of people interested in the Horn of Africa and asked Paul D. Williams of George Washington University to prepare an analysis of conflict in the region and offer some recommendations to mitigate this conflict. Although the study is dated October 2011, the Woodrow Wilson Center published it in mid-January 2012. Titled Horn of Africa: Webs of Conflict & Pathways to Peace, a number of us contributed to the final product.

The study notes that the Horn of Africa has experienced more than 200 armed conflicts since 1990. The U.S. government has for too long looked at the Horn through lenses which have emphasized regime security, counterterrorism, religious fanaticism and tribalism. The focus on regime security, counterterrorism and extremism has clearly failed to produce either a stable or peaceful region.

The paper suggests that viewing the Horn through a conflict resolution and peacebuilding lens would focus policymakers' attention on an alternative agenda focused on issues of good governance, the rule of law, human security, and supporting local state-society complexes that work for their people.

The central purpose of the study is to to illuminate the complex political terrain in which policies to build peace and resolve conflict will have to take place and to make tentative suggestions as to what priorities should guide an alternative comprehensive and integrated approach to the Horn.

A companion document titled Pathways to Peace in the Horn of Africa: What Role for the United States? offers a set of recommendations for how the U.S. government might engage more constructively with the states and peoples in the Horn to build peace.

1 comment:

  1. Somalia as a "failed state" is not just an issue for the international community concerned about security issues be they economic (e.g. 'piracy') or political (e.g. 'terrorism'). Nor is it just for show, some modernising demonstration of Africa's ownership of its destiny, that Ethiopian, Kenyan and Djibouti troops have joined Ugandans and Burundians on Somali soil. Kenya and Ethiopia in particular have political reasons to be concerned about instability in Somalia.
    Somalis have lived in Kenya since its colonial borders were drawn to include the NEP, but successive waves of immigration following collapse in the 1990s have introduced perhaps 300,000 refugees. The relative economic success of these Somalis, based on a dynamic mix of readily available finance (clan networks), an efficient transactional framework (hawala) and lack of regulation (the 'informal' economy), has brought benefits. However, Kenya's latest military incursion into Somalia seems to have exacerbated tensions, with the Somali community increasingly suspected of links with Al-Shabaab following 2010's reprisal bombings.
    For diverse and populous Ethiopia, the issue is linked to state-building and development. Ethiopia also has a Somali colonial legacy in the south. Ethiopia's federal administration must better stabilise and integrate such frontier regions into its economy as a precursor to accelerating development, whereas Somali islamists have a counter stake (as does Eritrea), in prolonging conflict between the ONLF and the Ethiopian army, providing a rationale for Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia.
    Any solution to Somalia's lawlessness must consider the potentially self-perpetuating instability caused by Somalian links with certain Somali groups in Kenya and Ethiopia.

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