Conflict in the Horn of Africa

WPF’s research on the Horn of Africa builds on Executive Director Alex de Waal’s years of research, activism and policy in the area. A central component of WPFs ongoing work in the region is developing an analytical framework for governance and violence that de Waal calls the “rentier political marketplace.”

The Horn of Africa is a region in which political power and resources are fiercely contested, and in which diverse models of political authority and conflict have emerged. Understanding how these systems function is the principal goal of our research. The starting point is the observation that the context in which political leaders wield power and attempt statebuilding is very different to that prevailing even thirty years ago. Most of the countries of the region went through a deep economic and political crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s. The recovery from that crisis has been characterized by economies based on external rents (minerals, aid, security cooperation with the U.S., criminal activities); control over the means of violence has been dispersed into the hands of intermediate elites; governments have lost their dominant position in terms of convening and communication; and the patronage systems and political economies have become globally integrated. The result is that the central task for a ruler in Africa and the Greater Middle East is not state building but simply remaining in power in a turbulent political environment.

While the “rentier political marketplace” system of governance is increasingly the default option in the region—as witnessed by Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia—there are also efforts to build developmental states against the grain of these trends, notably in Ethiopia.

South Sudan Cartoon Series
Seminar Briefing: Patterns of Violence in Somalia
Essays on Somalia
Essays on Ethiopia
Essays on Sudan, for Alex de Waal's recent writing on Sudan and South Sudan, click here.
Essays on Eritrea
Sudan Peace Archive
AU High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan