—Berihun Adugna Gebeye, Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg
[Editors’ Note: This is one of our biweekly ICONnect columns. For more information on our four columnists for 2021, please see here.]
What course the postcolonial state and its people should take to achieve liberation and self-determination, in the full sense of these terms, has been one of the big questions that has confronted Africans since the dawn of colonialism. While this question seems to be answered in much of Africa, it is still an outstanding issue in the Horn of Africa. There were two major ways of constituting self-determination after independence. One was by the complete redrawing of the colonial borders—either going back to precolonial times or forming a new political geography based on African terms and African values. The justification for this was that the colonial state – illegitimate and alien at its core by its very nature, form, and substance – is impossible to democratize without completely dismantling it. The second was by adopting a theory of government within the existing borders, which not only would redeem the illegitimate origin and logic of the state but also could enable it to serve the needs and interests of its people. This was the most widely accepted route to full liberation throughout the continent not the least due to pragmatic, ideational, and international realities.
Accordingly, the territorial borders, peoples, and sovereignties of the colonial states were reaffirmed, while the theory of government has been contested. But the Horn of Africa has taken a slightly different route in constituting self-determination. Here, the contestation is not limited to the (liberal) theory of government, but also has extended to territorial borders, peoples, and sovereignties. It is not only the theory of government, but the state as such has been contested more than any other region on the continent.Read the rest of this entry…