Much of East Africa, especially the Greater Horn of Africa, has been the site of some of the most intractable armed conflicts in Africa, and continues to be the scene of some of the greatest frustrations and setbacks for international peacebuilding efforts. This stands in contrast to more positive recent trends in peacebuilding in other parts of Africa. At the time of writing, the hard-won peace in South Sudan has disintegrated into armed violence that has led to 800,000 internally displaced persons, 250,000 new refugees and the possibility of a major famine. Sudan is beset by armed rebellions in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Somalia remains a failed state and is wracked by political violence, communal clashes and an urban guerrilla war waged by the jihadi group al-Shabaab.
Kenya is struggling to cope with al-Shabaab terrorist attacks, has mounted an ill-advised security campaign against its large Somali population and remains beset by deep ethnic and sectarian tensions. The two most peaceful countries in the region – Ethiopia and Eritrea – are led by some of the most authoritarian governments in Africa and maintain a ‘negative peace’ imposed by fear and repression. Their contested border remains one of the most militarized pieces of real estate in Africa, a legacy of the bloody, unresolved war they fought in 1998-2000. This sobering current situation forms part of a much longer tapestry of armed conflict across the majority of the region.