Publications & reports

Civil Society and Regional Peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa:

A review of present engagement and future opportunities

Publication details
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa Program


The story behind the story

This publication was never meant to see the light of day outside of the Life & Peace Institute’s offices. Its journey began in 2012 when the Life & Peace Institute (LPI) embarked on designing a regional peacebuilding programme, after nearly two decades of community-based peacebuilding work in the Horn of Africa. The basic objective was fairly clear; the programme should be grounded in LPI’s bottom-up peacebuilding approach, but go beyond particular locales and conflicts and seek to address the conflict system in the Horn in a strategic and comprehensive manner. While the overall goal was clear, the critical details of how to best go about such an amazingly ambitious endeavour, with whom, when and where to start certainly was not.

After inventorying LPI’s past regional peacebuilding experiences, a few answers came into view, but most questions about the state-of-the-art regional peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa were outstanding. We turned to the general literature on regional peacebuilding for guidance, but it was scant. We searched for case studies and found some good examples from other regions, yet most findings were nascent in nature and not yet of the nature of “cemented truths” (though, perhaps, few things are in the peacebuilding field) that could easily be extrapolated to other contexts.

At this stage of our thinking, two realizations were made. Firstly, LPI’s regional peacebuilding programme would not succeed unless it understood the lay of the land and traced the trail of other organizations who had gone into the territory of building regional peace in the Horn before us. Secondly, the information that we were looking for was not documented and readily available; hence the logical conclusion was to go out in the “real world” and find the answers ourselves.

Thus, from November 2012 to November 2013, LPI mapped out over 140 actors who had engaged in regional peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa, reviewed previous and current initiatives and travelled to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to gather the best practices and lessons from the most prominent and active regional peacebuilding actors. At the outset, the main purpose was to analyze all the collected data to primarily fill our own knowledge gap and subsequently use the acquired insights to design a programme based on the latest and best evidence out there. However, as soon as we began to sit down with the various peacebuilding actors in the region, most shared that they had been grappling with the same questions that guided our study and expressed great interest in the findings of our mapping and requested we share the final report.

Thus, the report that was initially supposed to serve as reference material for a few interested readers in and around LPI was then refashioned into the publication that you are holding in your hands; the first, of hopefully many, to come out of LPI’s new regional Horn of Africa peacebuilding programme.

Many of the findings are quite intuitive and wellknown, while others are more surprising. It is my hope that these findings will begin to answer some of the questions that many of us share as to how regional peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa has been done so far, and what outcomes and lessons have been achieved. This overview of current practices might also help the various stakeholders understand their respective roles in the bigger regional peacebuilding puzzle and shed some light on how to work in an increasing synergetic manner in order to lay a more complete one.

Further, I hope that the closing thoughts on ways to advance regional peacebuilding in the Horn will not only serve as food for thought, but that the reflections – some of which are on the critical side (in the way that you might be with your family) – will awaken and re-energize the field to forge ahead towards its ambitious, but worthy objective.

Finally, I would like to thank those who have been involved in the background research and write-up of various versions of this report; Sarah Cussen, Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw, Najum Mushtaq, Stella Sabiiti and Esmeralda Van den Bosch. I am also grateful to LPI colleagues who have also read and provided input to various draft versions of this report.

Hannah Tsadik LPI Resident Representative for the Horn of Africa Regional Programme