Crisis in the Horn

For generations, the peoples of the Horn of Africa have suffered the scourge of war, mass atrocities against civilians, repression and famine; their region has been divided by polarizing ideologies and identity projects, destabilized by external meddling and intervention, and is prone to climate crisis. Tragically, they are facing another cycle of turmoil, bloodshed and starvation today. The peoples of the Horn have struggled for peace, human rights, democracy and to overcome hunger, and have been partners in trying to build national and regional norms, principles and institutions that can serve their needs. The World Peace Foundation has been active in every country in the Horn of Africa and in the wider region—including the Nile Valley and the Red Sea Arena—seeking to document and analyze the plight of the people of the region, and what can be done to promote peace, justice, democracy and development. This page pulls together the diverse activities of the World Peace Foundation in the Horn of Africa.

War and Atrocity and Transition in Ethiopia

Related publications

How Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities Have Destroyed an Ethiopian Region’s Economy and Food System and Are Threatening Famine

April 2021

This special report from the World Peace Foundation documents how Ethiopian and Eritrean belligerents in the war in Tigray have comprehensively dismantled the region’s economy and food system. We provide evidence of their ongoing actions to deprive people of objects and activities indispensable to their survival—actions that amount to international crimes. We track the process of deprivation conducted in a widespread and systematic manner. We indicate where it is leading: in coming months, to mass starvation and a risk of famine; in the longer term, to sustained food insecurity and dependence on external assistance.

The Future of Ethiopia: Developmental State or Political Marketplace?

August 2018

Today’s changes in Ethiopia are rapid, confusing and disruptive. They promise openness and democratization, but also contain perils. This paper draws on two prisms through which to make sense of the situation: the ‘democratic developmental state’ as articulated by Meles Zenawi in a series of discussions with Alex de Waal between 1988 and 2012, and de Waal’s formulation of the ‘political marketplace.’

Podcast & Interviews

“They Have Destroyed Tigray, Literally”

January 2021

This a special podcast from World Peace Foundation on the war in Tigray, Ethiopia. It is a recording of a phone call from somewhere in rural Tigray on January 27, in which Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe spoke with Alex de Waal.

Eyewitness to Atrocities in Axum

INTERVIEW (Transcript)
April 2021

This transcript provides testimony from Eyewitness A, a woman originally from Axum, a small city in Tigray, Ethiopia, with a pre-war population of 70,000. Axum is an ancient site, with tall, carved obelisks from the ancient Kingdom of Aksum. It is also home of St. Mary of Zion, an Ethiopian Orthodox church, and the neighboring Chapel of the Tablet which is claimed to contain the Ark of the Convenant. The town is about 70 km south of the border with Eritrea, and 190 km north of the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle.

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Sudan’s Troubled Transition

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Sudan: A Political Marketplace Framework Analysis

August 2019

This paper provides a succinct analysis of Sudan as a political marketplace. It assumes a working knowledge of the basic principles of the political marketplace framework (PMF). It does not offer a policy recommendation, but rather a framework for analyzing the Sudanese predicament so as to understand the implications of different courses of action.

Prospects for Democracy in Sudan


Memo 1: January 26, 2019
This briefing addresses the challenge of democratization in Sudan today, in the context of the widespread protests against President Omar al Bashir.
Memo 2: March 13, 2019
This memo examines the prospects for a democratic transition in Sudan. Almost three months into a period of sustained popular protest, that began on 19 December, and following the State of Emergency (SoE) declared on 22 February, it covers both domestic and regional political dynamics
Memo 3: April 11, 2019
This memo examines the prospects for a democratic transition in Sudan. On the evening that President Omar al-Bashir was finally removed from power, it covers both domestic and regional political dynamics.
Memo 4: May 16, 2019
This briefing covers domestic and regional political dynamics and the prospects for democratization in Sudan. One month after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, there are major obstacles to the formation of a civilian government, and (more importantly) no inclusive elite pact.

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War and Peace in South Sudan

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South Sudan 2017: A Political Marketplace Analysis

February 2017

This memorandum analyzes South Sudan since independence using the framework of the political marketplace, in order to provide a guide to understanding the trajectory of the current crisis and the steps needed to address it. It provides a succinct overview of the theory of the political marketplace and the ancillary concepts of moral populism and the negotiated sovereign entitlement to kill.

A Political Marketplace Analysis of South Sudan’s Peace

March 2016

South Sudan today is a collapsed political marketplace. The country’s political market was structured by competitive militarized clientelism for access to oil rents. Those oil rents have almost disappeared but the structure of competition is unchanged and the price of loyalty has not reduced to a level commensurate with the available political funding. The result is that political loyalty and services are rewarded with license to plunder.

Turbulent Somalia

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The Prarie Fire that Burned Mogadishu: The Logic of Clan Formation in Somalia

December 2018

This report presents analysis of the processes that led to the emergence of the Clan-based political-military-territorial units in the period 1987-92, describes the transformations of pastoralism and the resulting inter-communal armed conflicts and associated changes in the political significance of the lineage system, and describes the manipulation of lineage politics by Siyaad Barre which culminated in the formation of Clans as political units for the purposes of capturing state power.

Eritrea’s garrison state

Vanguardist Nationalism in Eritrea

June 2020

This paper examines Eritrea’s history through the lens of the theory and practice of nationalism and self-determination by the vanguard of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. It provides an account of the succession of colonial rulers and the evolution of an Eritrean nation, followed by the crystallisation of Eritrean nationalism. The paper documents how the Constitutional Commission of Eritrea went about its work, and how its outcome was thwarted by intervention. The paper examines how Eritrean nationalism and self-determination developed through two processes, public discourse among Eritreans around the question of the future of the territory, while the practical political exercise of self-determination was achieved only through the military victory of a vanguardist liberation front.

What Went Wrong?: The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front from Armed Opposition to State Governance

A Personal Observation by Paulos Tesfagiorgis
November 2018

This paper discusses how the Eritrea People’s Liberation Front evolved from a liberation front (1971-1991), into a highly successful organization with clear social and political agenda, and, ultimately, into an oppressive state where power is concentrated in the hands of the President and his close network.

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