Working Paper 107

Resourcing State Borders and Borderlands in the Horn of Africa

Dereje Feyissa and Markus V. Hoehne

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 107

This article offers an analytical framework for researching the resourcefulness of state borders as institutions and borderlands as territories. It focuses on the Horn of Africa and investigates how the people living there exploit state borders and borderlands through various strategies. Drawing on summaries of case studies from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania we identify four different types of resources that collective as well as individual actors can extract from state borders and borderlands. These are: first, economic resources (cross-border trade and smuggling); second, political resources (access to alternative centres of political power, trans-border political mobilisation, sanctuary for rebels, and strategic cooption of the borderlanders by competing states); third, identity resources (state border as a security device in an inter-ethnic competition, legitimation of the claim for statehood); and fourth, status and rights resources (citizenship and refugee status, including access to social services). Resourcing state borders and borderlands, however, refers to a potential, not to a ready-made good. In fact, people have to strive to realise the opportunities entailed by borders and borderlands. Furthermore, who extracts what kind of resources from them is determined not only by individual or collective efforts, but also by variables such as the demographic size of the borderland community, the cross-border settlement pattern, the political distance of the borderlanders from the national centre, the significance a specific border possesses for the state actors, the depth of the cleavage caused by the border, the degree of inter-state economic differentiation, the entrepreneurial skills of the borderlanders, their cultural schemes or cognitive differences, and changes over time.

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