- Regional Integration, Identity and Citizenship in the Greater Horn of Africa ed. by Kidane Mengisteab and Redie Bereketeab
The editors of the book under review state the following general objectives: “(1) to identify the factors that can foster integration and the elements that impede it and to explore how to strengthen the former and transform the latter, (2) to explain how regional integration can contribute in mitigating the region’s various conflicts, and (3) to explain how integration can help energizing and transforming the region’s economy” (p. 5). The authors seek to “explore the relations of regional integration with inter-identity and citizenship rights” given that these have tremendous potential to become catalysts to integration (p. 5). In the pursuit of these aims and objectives, the book is divided into three parts. The first part is dedicated to how integration in the region is relevant to identity and citizenship, both conceptually and empirically. This lays the foundation for the second part, which identifies different dimensions of the relationships addressing “invisible integration,” integration-promoting narratives, education systems, and radio and information dissemination. In the third part, contributors examine the experiences of three regional integration schemes: the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The preceding statements about the general and specific objectives of the book, as well as the main issues to dealt with in each part, are very titillating. They raise expectations of unique perspectives on the ever- [End Page 251] burning subject of regional integration in Africa. The book purports to unpack three variables–identity, citizenship, and regional integration–and to delineate the relationships between them conceptually. For the most part, however, these expectations are not fulfilled. The first major problem is that the book lacks a definitive Introduction and Conclusion. What would normally be considered an introduction is presented as Chapter One. The result is an interesting chapter that reviews each of the three concepts of identity, citizenship, and regional integration, but cannot rise beyond that level because of an apparent lack of clarity as to whether it is a traditional introduction or a substantive chapter. Arguably, it should have constituted a rationale for the collection and served as a framework for the other chapters in the book. Also, there is promise that the policy implications of the analysis would feature in the narrative. Given the heavy bias toward concepts and theory, however, it is not surprising that it is only in a few places that there are glimpses of policy implications of the theoretical comments.
The chapters on invisible integration, education curriculum, and national narratives are the most obvious illustrations of the above. As regards invisible integration in the extensive body of literature on regional integration in Africa, there is hardly any discussion of the “invisible” segment of the population; the author himself notes that the concept has been “hitherto neglected” despite the fact that it is “a powerful weapon deployed by transmigrants (p. 69). This gap could be because one would either have to stretch the concept of invisibility or restrict that of regional integration. The link between invisibility and citizenship is well-argued, especially where invisibility is conceived as a weapon that enables the communities involved “to immobilize the power of the state to manage those who live within its territory by pigeonholing them into different categories” (p. 71). Arguably, there may be such a link between these two variables, but this is not the case as concerns regional integration. In other words, the chapter delves deeply into sometimes complex conceptual issues as between identity and citizenship, but at the expense of the regional integration dimension: this is not in accordance with the aims and objectives of the book.
The subsequent chapter is also impressive in its analysis of the dynamics of inter-state conflicts and their diverse derivatives; of particular value are its narrative on various methods of control, reduction and overall management of conflicts. This is all very useful, but it would...