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Which Way the Horn ofAfrica: Disintegration or Confederation? Daniel Kendie Michigan State University Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan occupy an area of some 4 million square kilometers and have a combined population of over 80 million , of which, some 10 million have become refugees, war-displaced persons and drought victims.1 By all accounts, these four neighboring countries are also among the least developed of the developing nations.2 They also grapple with a series of destabilizing developments including disintegrative ethnicity, primordialism or nationalism, predicated upon demands for ethnic self-determination. This leads to the question of whether this is a new phenomenon peculiar to the Horn of Africa or a world-wide trend. In 1904, for instance, Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), confidently assured the citizens of Birmingham that the day of small nations was over. But 16 years later, contrary to his prediction, some 42 nations— most ofwhich were new and small, showed up in Geneva and joined the League of Nations. Seventy-two years later, however, some of these nations are disintegrating. One of them, Yugoslavia, for example, has become a metaphor for the collapse of a multi-ethnic state and for the balkanization of the Balkans. It is rapidly disintegrating into its small constituent nationalism such as Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, and promises to split even further into still smaller groups like Kosovo, Voivodina and others, which in turn, are demanding their own autonomy. Benedict Anderson defines the nation as an imagined political community that is inherently limited. Many 'old nations' once thought fully©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Volume 1 Number 1 (New Series) 1994, pp. 137-167137 138 Daniel Kendie Consolidated, find themselves challenged by 'sub'-nationalisms within their borders—nationalisms which, naturally dream of shedding their sub-ness one day. The progression is quite plain: the end of the era of nationalism , so long prophesied, is not in sight. Indeed, nation-ness has become the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time. Nation, nationality, nationalism—all have proved notoriously difficult to define, let alone to analyze. In contrast to the immense influence that nationalism has exerted on the modern world, plausible theory about it is conspicuously meager.3 If Anderson finds difficulty in defining nationalism, and rightly so, Clifford Geertz focuses on "developing" countries and argues that the central problem for many people in these countries is that the primordial group is the unit with which they identify, through which their values and beliefs are transmitted and which, in a very real sense, makes life meaningful to them. At times, indeed, the primordial group is the terminal one, representing the major unit of socially legitimate and effective authority. Thus, primordial groups in developing countries may sometimes stand for "totalities of life."4 This observation may also be equally valid for the Western world. How else are we to explain the conflicts in Quebec, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Corsica, Brittany, or among the Basques (Euskadi), Walloons and Flemings? On the other hand, Eric Hobsbawn provides what could perhaps be described as an insightful and illuminating study. He maintains that no satisfactory criteria can be discovered as to which one of the many human collectivities should be utilized to understand ethnicity. Such criteria as languages and common territory, he says, are themselves fuzzy and ambiguous. They can change and shift in time. Development in the modern world economy generates vast population movements. As a result, it constantly undermines ethnic-linguistic homogeneity. Indeed, we could even add that since all aspects of cultural pluralism and transmission are constantly in a state of flux, the resultant effect is that each group and society itself continually evolves or changes. In the process, some groups are assimilated, others form, and still others grow larger. Hobsbawn equally questions the utility of what is called "national consciousness" because the great majority of the masses, especially workers and peasants , are the last to be affected by it.5 Insofar as there are no antagonistic contradictions dividing peasants or workers belonging to one ethnic group from workers and peasants of Which Way the Horn ofAfrica 139 other ethnic groups, could we then say that "ethnicity" and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 137-167
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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