The African Studies Centre, Oxford, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), invite you to the seminar Revisiting the politics of state survival: Violence, legitimacy and governance in the Greater Horn of Africa. The countries within the Greater Horn of Africa are on diverging trajectories with regards to state strength, economic development, and legitimacy.

Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya are hardening and expanding their control over their territories and peoples. These states project their economic and military power into the weakly or non-governed areas of their neighbours. In Somalia, and increasingly in Sudan, the concept of the ‘state’ has become blurred (but not erased). Somaliland demonstrates how a non-sovereign entity can adopt the qualities of a functioning state. Disintegration threatens Sudan where regional movements in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile vacillate between agendas of state reform and separatism. South Sudan lacks both the instruments and vision to maintain and solidify a peacetime political system and the governance structures needed to consolidate a functioning state. In Eritrea, stagnation and authoritarianism have strongly eroded the state’s legitimacy, though not yet eliminated its coercive power.

Across the region, notions of sovereignty and state-society relations are challenge and re-shape by trends of multilateralism, regional economic integration, and transnational. The changing distribution of power at the global level has seen new global players on the rise and the erosion of US and European capacity to define and drive the international agenda vis-à-vis African countries.

The contributors to this seminar analyse the context, implications, expected consequence of these trajectories both within each of these countries and the Greater Horn of Africa as such. What are the drivers behind regional differentiation? To what extent is warfare and organized violence a necessary ingredient in this process? Is this an elite project or is it a result of various trends empowering but also changing the relationship between rulers and ruled?

Registration for this half-day conference is free, but places are limited. Please email Adam Gilbertson at in order to confirm your attendance.

Revisiting the politics of state survival: Violence, legitimacy and governance in the Greater Horn of Africa


2.15pm Opening remark s: Nic Cheeseman, Director, African Studies Centre, Oxford

2.30pm Panel 1:
Current Modes of State Survival in Northeastern Africa: Stagnation and Expansion

Chair: David Pratten, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Discussant: TBC


  • Jason Mosle y, African Studies Centre/Chatham House:
    Productive landscapes: projection and risk in the state's vision for the Ethiopian frontier
  • Amanda Poole, Indiana University of Pennsylvania:
    ‘We are not the government’: political imaginaries and the politics of daily life in Eritrea
  • Øystein H. Rolandsen, PRIO:
    Gaining sovereignty: the case of South Sudan

4.15pm Tea and Coffee Break

4.45pm Panel 2:
Shadow politics anno 2014

Chair: Øystein Rolandsen, PRIO

Discussant: Christopher Clapham, University of Cambridge


  • William Reno, Northwestern University:
    Regional and Global Responses to the Failure of State-building in the Greater Horn of Africa
  • David M. Anderson, University of Warwick:
    Military Madness? Co-Option, coercion, and counter-Insurgency in the (re)making of Kenya, 2008-2014
  • Sandrine Perrot, Sciences Po, Paris:
    Violence and modes of domination in a hybrid regime: lessons from the 2011 Ugandan Elections

6.30-7.30pm Drinks Reception