22.- 25.9

P 09

Beyond the Nobel Prize for Peace - Turmoil and uneasy transformation in the Horn of Africa

Magnus Treiber, Institut für Ethnologie, LMU München
Sabine Mohamed, Institut für Ethnologie, Heidelberg Universität & Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften,Göttingen


Short abstract:

What is going on in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the wider region? What looked like a promising path towards peace, democracy and regional reconciliation might turn into another complex impasse. We will analyse and discuss recent developments and explore their wider contexts.

Long abstract:

It may have been a charming idea to award 2019’s Nobel peace prize to a young, educated and promising African leader. Within few months’ time Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed indeed tackled the everlasting stalemate with neighbouring Eritrea and invited imprisoned and exiled politicians and activists back into Ethiopia’s political arena. His pledge for national reconciliation and regional commitment, his reference of borders as artificial relicts of a colonial pasts and his return to a pan-Africanist vision are framed by his proposed policy of medemer (Amharic: coming together/addition), a likewise integrative as pragmatic approach. Yet, initial euphoria has ended. While cross-border relations with Eritrea did not substantially improve, ethnicity-based identity policy within Ethiopia became increasingly radical and brought up new types of hardliners and informal youth militias, who spread fear and violence even inside the country’s capital. With hundreds dead and over two million people displaced, Ethiopia’s path towards reconciliation has become uncertain and the whole region’s political development is once again at stake. Considering such ambiguity, Human Rights Watch called the Nobel Prize a ‘bittersweet’ award.

In this panel, we seek an understanding of what is actually happening in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the wider region. We invite presentations that discuss political events, developments and visions in the context of the region’s conflict-laden political and social history, changing global intervention, economic transformation and transnational entanglement, such as trade, migration and refuge. Furthermore, we are interested in views from below. How do people experience, perceive and discuss the current dilemma and their yet open future? How does hope for peace and stability relate to an apparently intensifying call for a strong hand? Will rivalling visions of desirable futures on various political, though intertwined levels eventually prove incompatible? Has peace itself become a simulacrum in the Horn of Africa?

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