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The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, War and the Business of Power

By Alex de Waal (Polity Press, 2015)

Alex de Waal's latest book (Polity Press, September 2015) draws on his thirty-year career in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, including experience as a participant in high-level peace talks, to provide a unique and compelling account of how these countries leaders run their governments, conduct their business, fight their wars and, occasionally, make peace.

De Waal shows how leaders operate on a business model, securing funds for their political budgets which they use to rent the provisional allegiances of army officers, militia commanders, tribal chiefs and party officials at the going rate. This political marketplace is eroding the institutions of government and reversing statebuilding and it is fueled in large part by oil exports, aid funds and western military assistance for counter-terrorism and peacekeeping.

The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa is a sharp and disturbing book with profound implications for international relations, development and peacemaking in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

To order, visit Polity Press.


"The foremost Western analyst of the Horn of Africa, Alex de Waal provides a superb account of the region's highly interdependent and often troubling politics. He combines an anthropologist's attention to local contexts with a political economist's analysis of transnational entanglements of markets, power struggles, and war. Often disturbing, even though de Waal seeks reasons to be hopeful, but a must read."

Craig Calhoun, London School of Economics and Political Science

"An outstanding book. The author's knowledge of the topic and region is unrivalled, and enlivened and enlightened by his personal experience and anecdotes"

Pádraig Carmody, Trinity College, Dublin

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Observing the business of power

2 The Political Marketplace: Politics is Business and Business is Politics

3 The Horn of Africa: Subcontinental war in three acts

4 Darfur: The auction of loyalties

5 Sudan: Managing the unmanageable

6 South Sudan: The boom and bust of a speculative bubble

7 Somalia: A post-apocalypse workshop

8 Somaliland: A business-social contract

9 Eritrea: A museum of modernism

10 Ethiopia: Is state-building still possible?

11 Transnational Patronage: Shadow globalization and the regional marketplace

12 The Politics of Ideas: Perplexed intellectuals and policymakers

Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism

Ed. by Alex de Waal with Jennifer Ambrose, Casey Hogle, Trisha Taneja, and Keren Yohannes (Zed Books 2015)

Advocacy in Conflict book cover image

Conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin America have become a common focus of advocacy by Western celebrities and NGOs. This provocative volume delves into the realities of these efforts, which have often involved compromising on integrity in pursuit of profile and influence.Examining the methods used by Western advocates, how they relate to campaigns in the countries concerned, and their impact, expert authors evaluate the successes and failures of past advocacy campaigns and offer constructive criticism of current efforts. Taking in a range of high-profile case studies, including campaigns for democracy in Burma and Latin America, for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, and opposing the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the authors challenge the assumptions set forth by advocacy organizations.

Advocacy in Conflict was developed from the 2013 World Peace Foundation Student Seminar, Western Advocacy in Conflict: Methods, Impacts and Ethics, and is edited by Alex de Waal, with Jennifer Ambrose, Casey Hogle, Trisha Taneja and Keren Yohannes with contributions from many of the seminar participants. The seminar briefing full text available as a PDF download.

Listen to an interview "The Is Hell" conducted with Alex de Waal about the book.

Purchase in the UK through Zed Books  or in the USA through the University of Chicago Press.


'Anyone who wants to understand the complex, ambiguous and often neglected nature of international activism must read this informative and readable book. Through a series of fascinating case studies the book illustrates the upsides and downsides of international engagement with local campaigns in some of the most difficult places in the world.'
Professor Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics and Political Science

'This timely and sobering volume asks the critical question: What is the price of success? In a series of compelling cases taken from the recent past, we see how Western activists are often co-opted, or forced to compromise on their founding goals, taking them further and further away from what might truly help those who are supposed to benefit from their activism.'
Michael Barnett, Author of The Empire of Humanity

'Alex de Waal and his students have assembled a fascinating group of thinkers and doers to dissect transnational advocacy in the twenty-first century.
Robert Muggah, Author of No Refuge and Relocation Failures in Sri Lanka

Table of Contents
1 Introduction: Transnational Advocacy in Contention
Jennifer Ambrose, Casey Hogle, Trisha Taneja and Keren Yohannes

2 Genealogies of Transnational Activism
Alex de Waal

3 Burma’s Struggle for Democracy: A Critical Appraisal
Maung Zarni with Trisha Taneja

4 The Janus Face of International Activism and Guatemala’s Indigenous Peoples
Roddy Brett

5 Advocacy Delegitimized: The convoluted Case of Gaza
Anat Biletzki

6 Conflict Minerals in Congo: The Consequences of Oversimplification
Laura Seay

7 ‘Make him Famous’: The Single Conflict Narrative of Kony and Kony2012
Mareike Schomerus

8 Getting Away with Mass Murder: The SPLA and Its American Lobbies
Alex de Waal

9 From Whose Perspective Anyway? The Quest for African Disability Rights Activism
Tsitsi Chataika, Maria Berghs, Abraham Mateta and Kudzai Shava

10 Activism and the Arms Trade: Exposing the Shadow World
Andrew Feinstein and Alex de Waal

11 A Right to Land? Activism against Land Grabbing in Africa
Rachel Ibreck

12 Conclusion: Reclaiming Activism
Casey Hogle, Trisha Taneja, Keren Yohannes and Jennifer Ambrose

About the contributors

Seminar Briefings

WPF seminar briefings provide an overview of the discussions and presentations from its closed door seminars. To access and download seminar briefings, plus find additional materials related to the seminars, visit the WPF seminar series.

Occasional Papers

The World Peace Foundation hosts an Occasional Paper series to address topics related to our thematic research areas. 

A Personal Observation by Paulos Tesfagiorgis 
November 2015 

This paper discusses how the Eritrea People's Liberation Front evolved from a liberation front (1971-1991), into a highly successful organization with clear social and political agenda, and, ultimately, into an oppressive state where power is concentrated in the hands of the President and his close network.The EPLF rose as a liberation army, involving the Eritrean people in an exceptionally arduous armed struggle against a major African army backed by world major powers to win independence. It was an effective fighting machine with clear people-centered ideology and a unique organization that captured the imagination of practically every Eritrean. As an organization, it forged solidarity and camaraderie between diverse Eritrean ethnic, class and gender groups, across rural and urban areas, and between Eritreans living inside the country as well as outside, for one great purpose – the liberation of the people, gaining independence of the country, through getting rid of the Ethiopian occupation force from Eritrea.

The paper documents how the EPLF changed towards the end of the fight for Eritrean liberation and then manifestly failed to provide its people with the fruits of democracy once war ended.  In peacetime, people were promoted based on fidelity to the President and dissent was harshly silenced. The disastrous war with Ethiopia was in many ways caused by and further fueled these tendencies. Today, political dissent and news media have been squashed, and Eritreans are fleeing their country in large numbers. 

Paulos Tesfagiorgis, a lawyer and human rights activist, established the only licensed regional centre for human rights and development in post-independent Eritrea. He was a co-founder and subsequently head of the Eritrean Relief Association during the Eritrean independence war. He has a masters degree in law from McGill University, Canada and has been a lecturer in law at the University of Asmara, Eritrea. He was awarded the Rafto Prize in 2003 for his work. 

Gender, Conflict, and Peace
by Dyan Mazurana and Keith Proctor
October 2013 

This paper provides a summary of key literature, frameworks and findings in five topic areas related to Gender, Conflict, and Peace, as well as proposes opportunities for further research. Some of the questions the Occasional Paper addresses include: How does a gender analysis inform our understanding of armed conflict and peace-making? What are the gendered dimensions of war, non-violent resistance, peace processes, and transitional justice? The authors draw on interdisciplinary research in international security, political economy, anthropology, law, and other fields and make extensive references to case studies of armed conflict and peace processes worldwide. 

Dyan Mazurana, Ph.D., is Associate Research Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University and Research Director of Gender, Youth and Community at the Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, USA. She is also the Cathy Cohen Lasry Visiting Professor of Comparative Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. Mazurana’s areas of specialty include women, children and armed conflict, documenting serious crimes committed during conflict, and accountability, remedy and reparation. Her books include Research Methods in Conflict Settings: A View From Below (Cambridge University Press, 2013) with Karen Jacobsen and Lacey Gale, After the Taliban: Life and security in rural Afghanistan (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) with Neamatollah Nojumi and Elizabeth Stites; Gender, conflict, and peacekeeping (Rowman & Littlefield 2005) with Angela Raven-Roberts and Jane Parpart; Where are the girls? Girls in fighting forces in Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Mozambique (Rights & Democracy, 2004) with Susan McKay; and Women, Peace and Security: Study of the United Nations Secretary-General as pursuant Security Council Resolution 1325 (United Nations, 2002) with Sandra Whitworth. 

Keith Proctor is a Visiting Fellow at the Feinstein International Center and a researcher on issues of transitional justice, memorialization, and mass violence in Northern Uganda. He is particularly interested in using a gender lens to evaluate cultural and institutional changes in the aftermath of conflict. In addition to regular collaborations with colleagues at the Feinstein International Center, he has consulted on projects for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Peace Foundation. Keith also regularly contributes to Fortune. He has taught at New York University, worked in U.S. campaign politics, and was Director of Public Policy for the Americans for Cures Foundation. A recipient of David L. Boren, Truman Security, and Atlantik-Bruecke fellowships, Keith holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Stanford University, a Master's in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he was an Overseers Scholar, and a Master’s in Comparative Religion from Harvard University, where he was a Presidential Scholar.

Staff Publications

For publications by Alex de Waal, click here.

For publications by Bridget Conley-Zilkic, click here.