Working Paper 124

Differentiating the Diaspora: reflections on diasporic engagement 'for peace' in the Horn of Africa

Markus Virgil Hoehne, Dereje Feyissa, Mahdi Abdile, Clara Schmitz-Pranghe

Project Group Legal Pluralism

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 124

The Horn of Africa is a highly volatile and conflict-ridden region. This is one of the reasons why huge Ethiopian, Somali, and Eritrean diasporas exist all over the globe at the beginning of the 21st century. While the literature frequently stresses the contribution of diasporic actors to conflict escalation and perpetuation, some studies also point to the possibilities and chances for development and peacebuilding through contributions from the diaspora. This paper is based on four individual research projects, three of which included extensive field research, and common discussions about an overall theoretical framework of the projects. It uses field research data as well as the secondary literature to illustrate the complexities and multiple layers of diasporic involvement in ‘homeland peacebuilding’. Importantly, our understanding of peacebuilding does not exclude political struggles that aim at restructuring a polity on an inclusive basis, even if this momentarily leads to (more) conflict. In our comparative analysis we identify three major areas in which diasporic actions have contributed to peacebuilding in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa. First, the engagement of all the diaspora groups discussed in this paper enhance the space for greater contestation of ideas and broaden the range of political options for the homelanders, who are largely confined within the space grudgingly granted by their respective governments or shaped by statelessness and ongoing civil war. Second, diaspora remittances are also crucial for family survival, community stabilisation, and economic growth in the absence of effectively and/or fairly working state institutions. Finally, there are a number of direct and indirect diasporic peace initiatives in the homelands at the local and even national level, concerning issues such as the mediation of inter-clan or sectarian conflicts or the rebuilding of the educational sector in a post-conflict society in order to induce hope (for a prosperous and peaceful future) for the next generation.

Go to Editor View