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Horn of Africa Course 2022

Horn of Africa Course 2022

The 2022 Horn of Africa Course examines the Somali-speaking lands, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and northern Kenya. It explores the historical and contemporary features that make the Horn one of the world’s most crisis-ridden regions.

The 2022 Course will be directed by Michael Woldemariam and Peter Chonka.

Dates: 27 June - 01 July, 2022  Location: Kenya

The Horn of Africa: Where local and global crises meet

The fact that 2022’s Rift Valley Institute Horn of Africa Course is the first residential course since 2019 is a sign of global turmoil that continues to be felt in the region. The 2022 Horn of Africa course will provide an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the intersection of global crises with political, economic and social dynamics in the region.

Since 2019, Ethiopia has been engulfed by conflicts that have threatened the very fabric of its ethnic federalist political structure, notably the war in Tigray that has deeply embroiled neighbouring Eritrea. The war, which has killed and displaced over two million people, has negatively affected Ethiopia’s international standing and complicated its relations with neighbouring countries, including Sudan and Somalia.

International preoccupation with the conflict in Ethiopia – alongside other global crises – has contributed to delays in Somalia’s long drawn-out electoral process. Parliamentary and presidential elections in Somalia, originally scheduled for early 2020, may now only be concluded in mid-2022. They are taking place as uncertainty builds around international engagement in the fight with Al-Shabaab and as a drought-induced humanitarian emergency affects the country.

The drought, which is affecting swathes of the Horn of Africa beyond Somalia, illustrates the very real impacts of global climate change on the region. Its impact, and the international response to it, will be compounded by other global crises, including the war in Ukraine, which can alter patterns of trade that result in higher prices of goods and effect the delivery of international humanitarian assistance in times of need.

Geopolitical competition, which has been a prevalent feature of politics in the Horn in recent years, underlies contestation over infrastructure development in states like Djibouti, and across the region. These dynamics have also provided new opportunities for Somaliland in its quest for international recognition with the development of Berbera port and associated road links attracting new investments.

Much has taken place in the Horn of Africa since our last course in 2019. This year’s course will explore emerging trends in relation to the wider historical and cultural context of the region, and its multiple global links. For more information visit the Q&A brief prepared by course convenors which provides more context of the main regional events. 

The  2022 Horn of Africa course explores themes such as political history and state formation in the Horn, local crises and global connections among others topics, featuring some of the most seminal academics and public thinkers on these issues.

The below syllabus highlight of 2022 Horn of Africa course  provides a breakdown of the themes covered and teachers on the course. 


Horn of Africa – Highlights of the Syllabus

DAY 1 Geographies, People and Cultures of the Horn

  • What is the Horn of Africa?
  • Religion and ethnicity in the Horn
  • Gender, youth, and identity politics in the Horn
  • The Political economy of natural resources in the Horn

DAY 2 Political History and State Formation in the Horn

  • Colonialism and independent statehood in the Horn
  • Ethiopia’s developmental state
  • Eritrea: Independence and isolation
  • Djibouti: Personal power and the politics of a small state
  • Somalia: State collapse, reconstruction, federalisation
  • Somaliland: Political development in a de-facto state

DAY 3 Local Crises

  • The Ethiopian crisis: Political transition and civil war
  • Election turmoil in Somalia: Causes, consequences and outlook
  • Eritrea’s regional role
  • Humanitarian emergencies across the Horn
  • The political economy of North-East Kenya and the Ethiopian-Somali regional state

Day 4 Global Connections

  • Infrastructure and geopolitics
  • International migration and diaspora influence
  • Great power foreign policy in the Horn: US, China, EU and Russia
  • Multilateralism in the Horn: Trends and possibilities
  • Social Media, communications and politics

Day 5 Security, Development and Emerging trends

  • Al Shabaab and international military engagement in Somalia
  • Livelihoods and climate change adaptation
  • Mobility and urbanization
  • Forecasting the coming year


Michael Woldemariam, Associate Professor, Boston University

Peter Chonka, Lecturer in Global Digital Cultures, King’s College

Biruk Terrefe, PhD Candidate, Oxford University

Lee Cassanelli, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Sahro Koshin, Founder and Director, Somalia Gender Hub

Mahad Wasuge, Executive Director, Somali Public Agenda


Apply for the 2022 Horn of Africa course

For more information visit the main annual courses page.