Editorial from ROAPE Volume 30 Number 97
Horn of Conflict
Nearly twenty years ago, the editorial of ROAPE's first special issue (No. 30, 1984) on the Horn of Africa opened with the sombre comment: 'Manifold, violent social conflict is the hallmark of contemporary history in the Horn of Africa.' Civil wars were raging then in Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. The latter two states had fought their second war a few years earlier, and relations between them were extremely hostile. Each was patronised and armed by one of the rival superpowers that were running a cold war sideshow in this corner of African. Not unrelated to conflict, a biblical famine was ravaging the region for the second time within a decade. The editorial of the second ROAPE special issue (No. 70, 1996) on this region observed that some things there had changed for the better. One major conflict had ended when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia, and both states now had a young, battle-tested and sophisticated leadership avowedly committed to peace and development. Foreign power interference had subsided with the end of the cold war, and a continent-wide wave of democratisation was seen lapping at the borders of the Horn. Interstate relations in the region had improved greatly, ambitious schemes of regional cooperation were envisaged, and demobilisation of armies and guerilla forces was in progress. Added to the expected peace dividend, foreign investment was anticipated to boost development now that socialism, previously the vogue in the region, had given way to the free market. The editorial also noted some things had changed for the worse. Conflict had caused the collapse of the Somali Republic - a first for Africa - and had spread to Djibouti and to parts of northern Sudan. The latter now claimed the dubious distinction of hosting Africa's oldest conflict.