Diasporas, Development, and Peacemaking in the Horn of Africa

In This Review

Diasporas, Development and Peacemaking in the Horn of Africa (Africa Now)
By Liisa Laakso and Petri Hautaniemi
Zed Books, 2014
248 pp. $134.95
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Many observers have noted that diaspora communities often provide manpower, funding, and logistical support to radical or violent groups in low-income, war-torn countries. This collection of essays focuses on the interaction of diaspora groups and the countries of the Horn of Africa and paints a more nuanced picture. Decades of conflict in the region have driven significant populations of Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Somalis to Europe, the Gulf states, and North America. Laakso and Hautaniemi reveal that these expatriates typically interact with their countries of origin with parochial objectives in mind; they usually want to aid their home villages or regions rather than influence national politics. But even when they seek only to promote economic and social welfare, their activities can have unintended political effects—and not necessarily bad ones. For instance, the authors argue that during the mid-1990s, expatriate funding for major construction projects in Somaliland helped jump-start postconflict rebuilding in that autonomous region of Somalia. Several interesting chapters also investigate the role that diaspora communities play in shaping how Western development agencies understand the countries of the Horn of Africa, sometimes in a manner that benefits members of the diasporas themselves.