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close this bookEthnicity and Power in the Contemporary World (United Nations University, 1996, 298 p.)
close this folder2. Ethnic conflict in the Horn of Africa: Myth and reality
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentConceptual problems
View the documentProblems of definition
View the documentEthnicity and social harmony
View the documentThe role of ideology
View the documentTraditional remedies
View the documentAn alternative approach
View the documentConclusion


Most of the wars waged in the Horn of Africa during the past 30 years have been described in terms of ethnic conflict, both by the adversaries themselves and by external analysts. The first and second Sudan civil wars have been characterized as conflicts between the Arabized northerners and African southerners, with cleavages along religious, racial, cultural, and linguistic lines. The various civil wars in Ethiopia have been characterized as wars between the Amharas and the Tigreans, Oromos, Eritreans, and so on. The Somali conflicts have been described as conflicts between the Maraheens and the Isaaqs, or between the Darods and the Ogadenis, and so on; and the conflict in Djibouti as between the Afars and the Issas.

Although each of these wars has been termed "ethnic conflict", one encounters tremendous difficulty when trying to analyse what is meant by this term and what these conflicts have been about. In this chapter some of the problems associated with the concept of ethnicity and ethnic conflict as they apply to the Horn of Africa will be examined. A discussion will follow of various mechanisms that have been utilized or advocated in the region to remedy the problem of ethnic conflict. The chapter will conclude with remarks on some possible responses that might open ways for the transformation and hopefully the alleviation of the problem.