To write about dimensions of peace in the Horn of Africa may well look like a step too far. This part of north-east Africa — comprising the current states of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia (with Somaliland), and with important links to Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya — has consistently figured among the most conflict-prone regions of the world, and despite some relative improvement in the first dozen years of the twenty-first century, its problems are very far indeed from being resolved. The resurgence of major conflicts, either within any of its constituent states or between them, is no means impossible, and such mechanisms as have been deployed to mitigate the worst effects of the fissures between its states, regimes and peoples are fragile and poorly institutionalized. It follows that we must at least start from the minimal conception of peace, or ‘negative peace’, as meaning the absence of overt violence, indicated in particular by conflict-related deaths. Such violence, inevitably, reflects deep-seated sources of human suffering, and derives in particular from historically high levels of oppression and exploitation, the removal of which is clearly central to any long-term peace agenda. Given the intractable nature not just of specific conflicts but of the cultural and environmental divisions explored below, this is a difficult and perhaps impossible task. Immediate peace processes, while taking account of the underlying issues, must necessarily concentrate on preventing major conflicts, and hope that periods of stability will make it possible to inculcate habits of non-violence, and gradually set about softening and mediating more basic problems.


Political Order Regional Perspective Islamist Movement Opposition Movement Ethiopian Government 
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© Christopher Clapham 2016

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