Working Paper 125

Limits to Political Engagement: the case of the Somali diaspora

Günther Schlee, Isir Schlee

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 125

The Somali Diaspora in Europe is highly segmented, not only along lines of clanship but also in terms of national origins (Somalia, de-facto independent Somaliland, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya) and period of arrival, namely before or after the escalation of the civil war in the late 1980s and the demise of Siad Barre in 1991. A complicating factor also is that self-identification in regional or clan terms is often affected by policies of the receiving countries. The paper addresses the context of the DIASPEACE project, which studies diaspora engagement in political processes in the countries of origin. It examines the factors that limit this engagement. Especially in the case of Somali, who arrived in Europe or other parts of the Global North after 1991, a tendency to be mainly concerned with problems posed by the new residential environment and its institutions can be discerned. These affect gender and generational roles. While some members of the elder generation are absorbed by problems with or in their new environment, others take an active part in peace or development related activities in the Horn of Africa. The younger generation, however, tends to turn their backs completely on Somalia or Africa, for that matter. A distant nationalism or a presence of the country of origin in collective memory, of the kind which has provided an element of cohesion to the Jewish diaspora for two millennia, is not expected to develop in the Somali case.

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