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Territorial Control and Cross Border Movement in Eastern Ethiopia: The case of Togochale Border



The movement of people across national boundaries on the African continent, for the purposes of earning a living through gainful employment, engaging in cross-border trade or visiting their kin, is commonplace. However, the extent to which political power and authority permits this mobility is dependent on specific historical and political factors of each country. This paper traces and examines Ethiopian state presence at the Togochale border in the east of the country by examining patterns of cross-border movement-namely migration, refugee movement and cross-border trade-since the 1960s. Using archival sources and secondary sources, the paper constructs a historical narrative of strong state presence in this border area. Furthermore, the paper argues that the notable presence of the Ethiopian state at this border is a consequence of how the Ethiopian state conceptualises the notion of territorial statehood, which is shaped by the country's history. Popular understandings suggest that local populations hold much sway in African border areas, rather than the central state, which is often confined to the capital-miles away from the border. Therefore, the presence of the Ethiopian state at the Togochale border appears to depart from the norm of limited state presence in African borderlands.
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
Territorial Control and Cross Border Movement in
Eastern Ethiopia: The case of Togochale Border
Namhla T. Matshanda
The movement of people across national boundaries on the African continent, for
the purposes of earning a living through gainful employment, engaging in cross-
border trade or visiting their kin, is commonplace. However, the extent to which
political power and authority permits this mobility is dependent on specific
historical and political factors of each country. This paper traces and examines
Ethiopian state presence at the Togochale border in the east of the country by
examining patterns of cross-border movement namely migration, refugee
movement and cross-border trade since the 1960s. Using archival sources and
secondary sources, the paper constructs a historical narrative of strong state
presence in this border area. Furthermore, the paper argues that the notable
presence of the Ethiopian state at this border is a consequence of how the
Ethiopian state conceptualises the notion of territorial statehood, which is
shaped by the country’s history. Popular understandings suggest that local
populations hold much sway in African border areas, rather than the central
state, which is often confined to the capital miles away from the border.
Therefore, the presence of the Ethiopian state at the Togochale border appears
to depart from the norm of limited state presence in African borderlands.
Keywords Territoriality, statehood, borderlands, eastern Ethiopia, Togochale
This paper foregrounds the control of territory by the Ethiopian state in the
eastern periphery by constructing a historical narrative of strong state
presence in this border area. It traces and examines Ethiopian state presence
at the Togochale border by examining patterns of cross-border movement
namely migration, refugee movement and cross-border trade since the
1960s. The focus of the paper is the manifestation of statehood in eastern
Ethiopia. As such, the paper takes the border as an ideal representation of
Lecturer, at the Department of Political Studies, Faculty of Economic & Management Science,
University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa, e-mail:
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
territorial statehood. The interplay between territorial control and cross-
border movement thus reveals the conceptualisation of territorial statehood
by the Ethiopian state.
In the mid-1950s, following the withdrawal of the British Military
Administration (BMA) from Ethiopia, there emerged competing ideas of what
the border means and represents to the Ethiopian state. These notions related
to the nature of the Ethiopian state at the time and the thinking that
characterised the country’s rulers. Borders, therefore, can be seen as directly
linked to the determination of the limits of the state and as markers of the
limits of the intended exercise of power by the state. Borderlands, on the other
hand, raise a different set of dynamics vis-à-vis the state and the exercise of
power. However, borderlands have similar characteristics, as spaces that owe
much of their character to the nature of the border, regardless of whether they
are in Ethiopia or elsewhere in Africa (Asiwaju 1985).
According to Vandergeest and Peluso (1995: 389), “experienced territory or
space is not abstract and homogenous, but located, relative, and varied.” This
suggests that the manner in which a state elects to establish territorial
statehood varies and is dependent on a range of factors. Indeed, Sack (1986:
3), argues that “territoriality is a historically sensitive use of space.” Most of
the literature on the relationship between African states and their borders is
informed by the colonial experience (Kapil 1966; Englebert & Hummel 2005;
Englebert 2009). The majority of this literature does not take into account
countries such as Ethiopia, which have different experiences with colonialism.
Recent literature demonstrates that it has not been easy to assess Africa’s
recent past, which in many ways has departed from the colonial past. As
Nugent (2004: 1-2) suggests, although there has been much written about
contemporary Africa, “a lot of it is unreflective and does not seek to place the
material in any kind of historical context.” This paper rejects this approach by
contextualising and historicising the relationship between the Ethiopian state
and its borders in order to understand contemporary practices of territorial
The paper begins by conceptualising African notions of territorial statehood.
It traces current understandings of territoriality in Africa and locates these in
the post-independence consensus on African borders. The paper then moves
on to a discussion of Ethiopian understandings of territoriality. This section
highlights the constitutive role of peripheries in Ethiopian statehood. The
paper then discusses a period of rigid state borders in the post-BMA period in
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
Ethiopia. The section examines how this period influenced the manner in
which the state viewed the border. To provide context, this section explores
internal political dynamics within the eastern periphery under imperial rule.
Next, the paper surveys the increased militarisation and further rigidification
during the period of the Dergue from 1974. Finally, the chapter examines the
nature of this border since 1991, a period that has experienced unprecedented
levels of cross-border movement, most of which is underlined by cross-border
Understanding territorial statehood in the African context
There is a research gap in the literature on state formation in Africa, in
particular the relationship between African states and their borders.
Approaches to state formation in Africa have been dominated by analyses that
are rooted in Weberian sociology of the state and its notions of statehood. This
has led to the categorisation of all manifestations of statehood that do not
conform to this model as instances of state failure, collapse or weakness
(Rotberg 20021982). This literature has struggled to make sense of political
development outside the confines of state capitals, and has equally been
unsuccessful in explaining inter-state relations in Africa. Since the end of the
Cold War, regionalism has emerged as a prime ordering principle on the
continent, with many African countries organising and cooperating at the sub-
regional level. This inevitably requires a rethinking of statehood. The inability
of the literature to grasp rapid and often unconventional political development
is problematic and requires further investigation.
The inability of the literature and analysts to imagine African statehood
beyond the confining category of the nation-state has been the main challenge.
The preoccupation with internal state ‘disorder’ has meant that the legitimacy
of African cases of secession, for instance, is questioned and met with
contempt, as demonstrated by Zartman’s (1996) assessment of Somaliland.
The fixation on internal ‘collapse’ or ‘disorder’ has led others to argue that
there is, in fact, logic behind the seeming disorder that is found within African
polities (Chabal & Daloz 1999). Indeed, while Chabal and Daloz’s main claims
are open to debate, their approach nevertheless demonstrates that, in Africa
political dynamics and practices exist that do not conform to ideal-type forms
of political organisation.
The contemporary African state system is based on the decisions reached by
newly independent African countries in 1963 in Addis Ababa and in 1964 in
Cairo to retain the territorial boundaries inherited from colonial rule.
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
Consequently, there has been general agreement on the absence of inter-state
conflict on the continent, regardless of the persistence of states that emerged
from seemingly arbitrary boundaries the paradox of African boundaries
(Herbst 1989). There is consensus on some of the reasons why this paradox
has persisted. A number of commentators such as Christopher Clapham
(1996) and Jeffery Herbst (2000) have noted that the nature of the
international state system supports this paradox, particularly the popular idea
of the nation-state. Others, such as Pierre Englebert (2009), have gone a step
further by attempting to demonstrate how the international system supports
this paradox. The overall consensus is that African countries have largely
remained viable and peaceful towards each other, regardless of internal
turmoil, because the international system ‘rewards’ them for remaining intact.
The conclusion, therefore, is that African norms of statehood find
institutionalised legitimacy in the international system (Young, 1991).
However, the African territorial consensus and its popular understandings are
challenged in the Horn of Africa. In most analyses, the Horn is acknowledged
for its exceptional nature, but the discussion tends to focus on the remarkable
feat of peacefully retaining ‘artificial’ boundaries elsewhere on the continent.
Crawford Young (1991) acknowledges that “Ethiopia cries out for creative
imagination and careful study” but does not offer ways to go about this.
Similarly, Englebert (2009) and Englebert and Hummel (2005) do not
adequately address why in the Horn the seemingly low odds of international
recognition for breakaway states does not seem to deter secessionist states
from emerging. Nor do they explain why, unlike elsewhere on the continent,
as Englebert has demonstrated, actors in the Horn appear to be disinterested
in the “domestic power of command” that is afforded by the legalities of the
international system. Although some of this literature has attempted to
challenge the state weakness/failure discourse, it has not been able to provide
the necessary analytical tools to take the analyses to a level that historically
and contextually investigates the variegated forms of empirical statehood that
continue to emerge in the Horn of Africa.
To successfully challenge some of the assumptions that exist in the literature
we must focus on history and context. This paper thus contributes to the
current turn in the literature on African state formation, which rejects
ahistorical analyses. This is highlighted by Spears (2003), when he notes that
the Horn of Africa, Somaliland in particular, raises significant questions about
Africa’s territorial order. Others have suggested other explanations for the
unusual expressions of statehood in the Horn. For instance, Kornprobst (2002)
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
argues that “there is no consensus on who constitutes a colonial power in the
Horn,” unlike in other African sub-regions. Kornprobst suggests that some
states might perceive Ethiopia as a colonial power in the Horn. However, such
an assertion needs to be interrogated. The formation of the contemporary
Ethiopian state in the late nineteenth century and the complexities of the
decolonisation process in the twentieth century would need to be considered.
This paper employs an interpretive approach and a qualitative methodology
that combines historical and ethnographic research methods. As such, a
constructivist inspired methodology should be inductive, interpretive and
historical (Pouliot 2007). Indeed, a study of the state in Ethiopia, as this paper
demonstrates, is a study of the motives and practices of how the state has
fashioned itself toward its peripheries. Here, the task of the researcher is to
contextualise and historicise this experience in order to arrive at a particular
understanding of the relationship between the centre and the periphery. And
most importantly for the purposes of this paper, the state’s relationship with
its borders needs to be historicised and contextualised.
Territorial conceptions of statehood and the constitutive role of
peripheries in Ethiopia
The formation of the contemporary Ethiopian state in the late nineteenth
century the empire state was shaped by the incorporation of territories
located south, east and west of the political centre (Donham & James 2002).
Subsequently, the peripheries shaped the evolution of state bureaucracy and
the definition of the national territory. Central to these processes was the
extension of state power over a particular territory, which instituted the use
of territory as a means of asserting imperial state power and authority.
However, the territorialisation of state power in Ethiopia was not an
unambiguous process.
The political and economic transformation of Ethiopian society was delayed
because of the organisation of state power under the imperial order. The
traditional base of legitimate state power in Ethiopia, initially for the Christian
groups and later for the Ethiopian nation, ensured that a large section of the
population within the Ethiopian territory remained on the fringes (Markakis
& Beyene 1967). The ‘fringe’ or lowland peripheries, where pastoralists were
much harder to keep track of and to control, experienced the least amount of
administration (Donham 2002). In the period following the Italian occupation,
the state saw an increase in peripheral dissent. However, this change was less
about a periphery that became more belligerent, and more about structural
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
changes that were taking place in the centre and in the wider region,
specifically state centralisation and decolonization. The state became
increasingly centralised, and for the first time, the territorial boundaries of the
state became more defined than they were previously.
Territoriality became more salient in the post-1942 period in Ethiopia. The
geographic and political organisation of space found an immediate and direct
expression in an increasingly centralised state. Indeed, centralisation required
an exact articulation of the territorial limits of the state. Elsewhere on the
continent, the post-colonial relationship between central state power and the
national territory has been conceptualised in slightly different ways. To a large
extent, the centre-periphery relationship was shaped by the colonial
experience, and thus it was this experience that influenced the nature of the
post-colonial state (Herbst 2000). In most cases, the core-periphery
relationship took the form of the urban-rural divide (Bratton 1994). The post-
colonial state sustained this dialectic and adapted it to suit its peculiar mode
of power and control. Callaghy (1987) describes the trend of increasing the
power of central authority while simultaneously weakening local power
structures in the periphery as the “coverover strategy.” This experience was
widespread in the colonies and saw the colonial state transferring its most
undesirable features to its post-independence successor (Young 1994).
Although the practice of exercising control over the peripheries was similar to
elsewhere on the continent, the motives and structures with which it was
created and carried out was differed in Ethiopia. Unlike the post-colonial state
in other places in Africa, the state in Ethiopia had been actively involved in the
determination of its territorial boundaries. Ethiopia participated in the
drawing of boundaries in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, the centre-periphery
relationship in Ethiopia is different because the demarcation of boundaries
and incorporation of conquered territories into the state was actively pursued
by Ethiopian rulers even prior to the formal demarcation of boundaries.
The period following liberation from the Italian occupation was a key moment
in Ethiopia’s modern political history. This period was characterised by a
determined effort by the state to: a) consolidate its territorial gains from
before the occupation; and b) consolidate its political dominance, particularly
in the peripheries. These two goals were essential for the survival of the
imperial state following the five year Italian occupation. The pursuit of these
aims was accompanied by strong rhetoric on modernisation. This rhetoric was
rooted in a provincial administrative structure that sought to maintain the
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
status quo of centre-periphery relations. The main goal of the provincial
administration was to maintain the traditional role of the centre in the
administration of the conquered territories and to preserve the territorial
integrity of the state. This became the dominant theme in the articulation of
Ethiopian statehood, with subsequent state rulers adapting their ideologies in
a way that they too could maintain the role of the state as an agent of control
and authority.
The aforementioned objectives of the state were given impetus by the
presence of the BMA in Ethiopia from 1941. The military arrangement that
ultimately threatened Ethiopian territorial sovereignty began as an Occupied
Enemy Territory Administration (OETA), and later, in 1942, became a full
British Military Administration (Rennell-Rodd 1948). Zewde (1991) notes that
under the convenient cover of the continuation of the war, Britain came to
assume extensive control over Ethiopia’s finances, administration and
territorial integrity. The changes that occurred during the period of the BMA
are crucial as they brought to the fore the (in) ability of the Ethiopian state to
control its territory and assert its authority in the peripheries. During this
period, Ethiopian statehood shifted to an increasingly territorial
conceptualisation, one that was not seen in the pre-Italian occupation period.
Prior to the occupation, administration entailed the radiation of power from
the centre to a vast and vaguely defined territory. However, the need for exact
delimitation of the territory became increasingly urgent and significant after
the occupation. During this period, the state sought to fashion itself as a
modernising empire with a secure territory and a stable community. The
preconditions for ‘modern’ statehood crystallised because the territorial
foundations of the state came under threat during the period of the BMA. The
effects of this threat were most evident in the peripheries, which had hitherto
been vaguely defined and loosely administered.
Attempting territorial control by militarising the eastern periphery
The rationale for the uncompromising approach of the imperial state with
regards to the border with the Republic of Somalia in the early 1960s can be
found in the events of the preceding decade. The period of the BMA presented
a significant threat to the territorial integrity of the imperial state; this was
mainly because the state was yet to consolidate its territory and political
authority in the eastern regions. However, the official end of the BMA in 1954
left residual territorial ambiguities, particularly in people’s minds. Therefore,
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
the formation of the Somali Republic in 1960 added another dimension to the
anxieties of the imperial state vis-à-vis its uncertain presence in the east.
The 1960s began with a series of rebellions in the southern and eastern
regions of Ethiopia in Hararge and Bale provinces. These revolts were staged
by pastoralist sections of the population in response to increased state
centralisation, particularly the introduction of livestock tax. The revised
Ethiopian Constitution of 1955 was meant to signify a shift to a modern state
and government. The supposed transformation entailed the introduction of
new revenue collection measures, which implied a more centralised
bureaucracy (Gilkes 1975). Many, particularly the pastoralists, found the
increasingly centralised administration to be offensive as it curtailed some of
their movements and freedoms. This led to a conflict that was ignited when a
police force was deployed to collect taxes in Bale province. On arrival, the
police were immediately surrounded and overpowered by the local tax rebels,
who until then were no more than a loose formation (Gilkes 1975). The
rebellion was exacerbated by the formation of a secessionist movement the
Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) in south-eastern Ethiopia.
According to Gilkes (1975), there were similar movements against taxation
and tax collection among pastoralists in the Ogaden district of Hararge
province. However, he also states that “these are impossible to verify since
most of the area is closed to outsiders.” This statement indicates the initial
stages of the militarisation of the eastern periphery of Ethiopia. The state
insisted on tax collection as part of a comprehensive effort to assert its
authority in these remote areas. The militarisation of the region also coincided
with the commencement of oil and gas exploration in the late 1960s. What
then developed was the state’s territorialisation of resource control
(Vandergeest & Peluso 1995), where the state mobilised means of coercive
enforcement in the Bale and Hararge provinces. Gilkes (1975) notes that, by
the early 1970s the Ethiopian Army’s third division was permanently based in
the Ogaden district, where it “spen[t] a substantial amount of time collecting
tax.” The administrative ambiguities that were created by the BMA in the
eastern periphery led to suspicions by imperial state authorities regarding the
loyalties of some of the borderland populations.
Thus, the presence of the imperial state in this periphery was first and
foremost about making claims to the territory, but also increasingly to claim
the population. The territorialisation of central state power and authority thus
increased exponentially in the 1960s up to the 1970s and suggests an
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
increasingly territorial approach that reflects a range of possible objectives by
the imperial state:
Rulers territorialized state power to achieve a variety of goals. Foremost
among these was the need to make claims on territory to protect access to
people and income from taxes and natural resources, in a world in which only
territorial claims were recognised as legitimate. Second, territorialization
enabled increased efficiency in the collection of regular taxes. A regular money
income was necessary to finance permanent militaries, assess the viability of
young men for a conscript military, and finance a growing bureaucracy as well
as government investments that sustained local production in a context of
global competition (Vandergeest & Peluso 1995).
The foregoing was true in Ethiopia where the imperial state deployed severe
strategies in the administration of its peripheries in order to comply with its
ideas of territorial statehood. The ‘modernisation’ of the state, which included
an increase in revenue collection and establishing an elaborate bureaucracy,
provided both the context and pretext for the militarisation of the eastern
With modernisation as state rhetoric in the post-liberation period, there was
much optimism about the transformation of Ethiopian society. However, this
optimism was thwarted when the apparent transformation failed to live up to
expectations. The imperial state adopted a version of modernisation that was
implemented within already established political structures of traditional
hierarchy (Clapham 1969). The focus on centralisation, often framed as
modernisation, was underlined by a conceptualisation of territorial control as
a key component of political power. There was, therefore, more continuity
than transformation in the process of modernising the empire.
Huntington (1969) outlines what could have occurred in Ethiopia as part of
political change in a traditional polity, stating:
To cope successfully with modernization, a political system must be able, first,
to innovate policy, that is, to promote social and economic reform by state
action. Reform in this context usually means the changing of traditional values
and behaviour patterns, the expansion of communications and education, the
broadening of loyalties from family, village, and tribe to nation, the
secularization of public life, the rationalization of authority structures, the
promotion of functionally specific organizations, the substitution of
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
achievement criteria for ascriptive ones, and the furthering of a more
equitable distribution of material and symbolic resources.
This was not to be in Ethiopia since the overriding concern was to maintain
the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state. The making of territorial
claims, protecting resources and collecting taxes, often through violent means,
marked the beginning of the challenges that have affected the administration
of this periphery since the BMA period.
The pastoralist populations who formed a majority and other ‘cross-border
populations’ were the most affected, as the policies favoured a sedentary
lifestyle. The imperial state favoured a sedentary existence particularly for the
pastoralist communities whose loyalties the state could not guarantee. To a
large extent, a sedentary way of life was achieved in the Jijiga area up to the
border at Togochale where a number of pastoralists became ‘agro-
Post-BMA patterns of cross-border migration
The unstable political climate in Hararge and Bale provinces and the
nationalist fervour that accompanied the formation of the Somali Republic led
to the strengthening of rules that governed cross-border migration in Ethiopia.
Policies on the use of the borders of the empire were decisive in their intention
to determine who belonged and who did not.
Some of the most important decrees that were passed on the use of the border
appeared in the Negarit Gazeta the Ethiopian government gazette. These
included the Immigration Proclamation of 1943 (Negarit Gazeta Vol.1). This
was followed by the Customs and Export duties Proclamation of 1943. The
customs and duties proclamation also defined illegal activities, such as
smuggling, and the penalties they carried. To confirm these proclamations, a
former government employee who worked in Hararge province in the 1960s
and 1970s noted that there were customs posts at the border at Togochale, as
well as sixty five kilometres further inland at Jijiga. Elders interviewed by this
author all confirmed that more rigid rules and regulations were introduced by
the imperial state and, in particular, they noted the regulation of customs
duties at the Togochale border in the 1960s. Customs duties were collected by
state agents and went directly to the state and not to local leaders. In the Jijiga-
Togochale region, the state rarely used local ‘chiefs’ or balabbats. This is
because the central state authority had directly administered this section of
Hararge province since its official incorporation into the state. Therefore, it
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
was the northern military-settlers the neftegna who oversaw
administration, including revenue collection, in the Jijiga and Togochale areas.
Interviewees in Jijiga noted that imperial authorities were very strict about the
use of passports at the border. The state became even firmer following Somali
independence. This change coincided with the beginning of the territorial
claims of the Republic on Ethiopian territory. Imperial rulers attempted to
alter the movement of people on this border. However, those crossing the
border often flouted these rules since they had always known and participated
in unhindered cross-border movement.
The conflict between Ethiopia and the Republic of Somalia shaped the
territorial (border) discourse for the next few decades. The Ethiopian state
became increasingly strict at the border by monitoring the movement of
The start of a refugee problem
In the 1960s and 1970s, refugees in sub-Saharan Africa were mainly a
consequence of “explosive internal social and political situations” (Milner
2009). In eastern Ethiopia, in addition to internal conditions, the Ethiopia-
Somalia conflict of 1964 produced the first wave of refugees across the
Togochale border. However, this movement was not massive and did not lead
to the establishment of refugee camps. In the 1960s, the vast majority of
refugees in Africa lived in rural settlements located in the host countries
(Milner 2009). Unfortunately there is little documentation on this particular
movement of refugees. Yet, we can assume that the refugees were, in one way
or another, absorbed into the border villages of eastern Ethiopia. The
movement of large numbers of refugees across state borders has since become
a defining characteristic of human migration in the Horn of Africa and, in the
process, shaped the various states from below in quite significant ways.
During the 1963-64 Ethiopia-Somalia conflict, one of the catalysts for the
movement of people from eastern Ethiopia was the “Declaration of State of
Emergency in the Region Bordering the Republic of Somalia” Order, (Negarit
Gazeta Vol. 3). This Order brought the Ethiopian army to the region and
severely restricted the movement of people, causing many to flee across the
border to the Somali side. The entire region came under emergency laws as
the imperial state struggled to distinguish between those who were fighting
against taxation and those that were advocating for secession.
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In 1964 the Somali Republic initiated a ceasefire that remained until the close
of the decade before the civilian government in Mogadishu was overthrown by
a military junta in 1969. The latter later re-visited the 1964 conflict and the
unresolved issues thereof, and in the process plunged both Ethiopia and the
Republic into a deadly war that generated the greatest number of refugees.
Limited cross-border trade
There is no indication that the Togochale border was involved in extensive
cross-border trade during the imperial period. This is partly due to the limited
available data on this area during this period. There is evidence, however, of
trade in khat, to the British Protectorate and beyond. The export taxes of this
popular drug are reported to have been high at two Ethiopian dollars per kilo
(Foreign Office 1954). It is likely that this was the only Ethiopian export that
passed through this border. Following Somali independence, all forms of
cross-border trade were official and heavily regulated. Khat remains one of the
main Ethiopian exports to pass through at Togochale. As part of the process of
modernisation and centralisation in the 1960s, cross-border trade was
standardised and formalised according to strict customs rules and regulations.
Trade activities that take place outside official channels are perhaps the most
common and rooted forms of cross-border trade at Togochale. In
conversations with people in Jijiga, several people had personal stories of
smuggling small quantities of goods and products across the border.
Regardless of strict rules at the border, local populations often managed to
utilise the border for their own needs, where they deployed what can be
termed as “practical norms” (Blundo & De Sardan 2006), based on
personalised understandings of the meaning of the border. The populations
were, overall, aware of the rules and regulations on cross-border trade,
however, because of their familiarity with the landscape, they still managed to
smuggle a limited number of goods. They were engaged in these activities
because the goods were useful for daily consumption and for other more
immediate needs.
However, the changing official nature of the border had an impact on how the
locals experienced it. The transformation of the border from a loosely defined
concept during the BMA to a more clearly defined entity after the BMA, created
a situation similar to what Nugent (2002) sees as a “dual aspect,” where the
border presents both constraint and opportunity. Yet, from the perspective of
central authorities, the strict measures and practices were a way of
constituting a state (Mitchell 1991).
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Radical centralisation, war and a refugee crisis
In order to create and sustain the required levels of centralisation, the military
regime that overthrew the ancien regime in 1974 needed to secure its
territorial borders. Unstable borders not only threatened the revolution, but
also the territorially defined state, which was an integral component in the on-
going transformation of Ethiopian society. By 1977, the Ethiopian state was
involved in a military confrontation with the Eritreans in the north and at the
same time faced increasing threats from Somalia in the eastern front. These
confrontations heightened the urgency to maintain the territorial integrity of
the state. The resolve to maintain territorial control is evinced in a statement
that was delivered by Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile-Mariam to the 14th Assembly of
Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in
Libreville, Gabon, in July 1977:
[…] the frontiers between Ethiopia and Somalia are regulated by a series of
international treaties. If Somalia refuses to recognise these treatises, then
Somali itself which owes its very existence to a set of international agreements
and decisions to which it was not a part must cease to exist. This fact may well
be unpalatable to the Somali leaders, but is a reality nonetheless. Somalis are
infiltrating with terrorists recruited, trained and financed by the government
in Mogadisho for sabotage and subversion in Eastern Ethiopia […] (Ministry of
Foreign Affairs 1977).
The combination of internal upheaval in Ethiopia and the war with Somalia
gave rise to the first major wave of refugees in the Togochale border area. The
current reasons for refugee flows in this region are not always political, but
tend to be a combination of social, political and environmental factors. The
human tragedy is often compounded by drought and famine. A refugee camp
coordinator in Jijiga aptly noted this, stating:
Environmental issues are additional, but it is political issues that are the major
factors contributing to refugee inflows. If there was political stability,
environmental issues like drought would not force people to flee and become
refugees (Mugoro 2011a; 2011b).
The conciliatory spirit of the 1964 ceasefire between Ethiopia and the
Republic of Somalia was short lived. Border skirmishes resumed when the
Dergue came to power in 1974. This was followed by reinforced security at the
Togochale border, as noted by an elder in Jijiga. The elder recalled that after
the Dergue came to power she set out on a journey to Hargeisa in northern
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
Somalia but was detained at the Togochale border. By her own admission, she
was crossing the border illegally without the correct documentation. She spent
a night in jail and was released the following day after her brother in Hargeisa
received news of her arrest and intervened. She noted that she was
interrogated throughout the night, where she was shown photographs and
asked to identify the people in the photos. It appears that the main objective
of regulating cross-border movement was the apprehension of those that were
deemed to be dissidents; under the new regime, the new role of the border
was to contain and eliminate dissent. A recurring theme from the interviewees
at Jijiga is that everyone needed a passport to cross the border, but not
everyone had one or could have one.
From 1974 to 1978, immigration policies and practices were radicalised at the
Togochale border. The period after the war with Somalia in 1978 saw the most
significant changes in the usage of this border as internal political dynamics in
the eastern periphery of Ethiopia became radicalised. The militarisation of the
region and the increasing tensions between Ethiopia and the neighbouring
Republic of Somalia led to stricter measures at the border. These measures
were, indeed, a consequence of the radicalised conception of territorial
statehood by the central state. This conceptualisation entailed the removal of
perceived sources of discontent (Clapham 2002), the origins of which the state
was only too aware. The state’s security apparatus is reported to have
routinely arrested people suspected of engaging in activities deemed hostile
to the state, and generally terrorised anyone with contrary nationalist
ambitions (Hassen 2002).
The economic revival of the Togochale border
The centuries-old objective of gaining access to the coast by successive
Ethiopian rulers has once again taken centre stage since 1991. The coming to
power of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)
ushered in an era of economic renewal in Ethiopia, one not seen since the post-
war period in the 1950s. Changes in the domestic and regional political
landscape called for a pragmatic approach on the part of the Ethiopian state
vis-à-vis its new neighbour, Somaliland.
In 1993, Ethiopia became a landlocked country following Eritrean
independence, making it the most populous landlocked country in Africa.
Ethiopia needed additional coastal outlets that, according to Clapham (2006),
can in principle be attained through any of its neighbours. However, political
necessities are an ever-present reality in inter-state relations in this region.
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
Thus, in reality, Ethiopia did not have many coastal options. In addition to the
Djibouti port (closest and overused) and Mombasa (much further away),
Addis Ababa was compelled to consider the opportunities presented by its
new neighbour. However, by the Somaliland authorities’ own admission, the
Berbera port lacks the adequate infrastructure to be a serious competitor to
Djibouti and Mombasa.
With very little to lose, Somaliland has made several economic bilateral
arrangements with Ethiopia. However, its lack of international recognition
makes formal arrangements with neighbouring countries a challenge. Yet,
Ethiopia and Somaliland have developed amicable relations, the political
challenges notwithstanding. Ethiopia was the first country to have permanent
diplomatic representation in Hargeisa, with Ethiopian Airlines one of the first
to fly into the capital. Yet, to the frustration of officials in Hargeisa, Ethiopia
has not issued formal recognition. Ethiopia’s reluctance to recognise
Somaliland is related to the unwillingness of authorities in Addis to be seen to
encourage secessionist states but it also has to do with the fact that “Ethiopia
rides several horses in the Somali regional calculus […]” (Jazhbay 2007).
The extent of the cordial relations between Ethiopia and Somaliland is
reflected at their mutual border at Togochale and the surrounding Ethiopian
borderlands. The regulation of cross-border trade flows appears to be one of
the main reasons for the presence of the Ethiopian state at this border, to
collect customs revenue. We can distinguish between unofficial and official
trade. Within these two categories, we will further differentiate between large-
scale and small-scale trade. In their 2002 cross-border trade study, Tekan and
Azeze (2002) noted that, unofficial imports and exports abound in the border
areas between eastern Ethiopia and the neighbouring Somali territories, and
that the Ethiopian government calls this trade ‘contraband.’
Small and large-scale official and unofficial cross-border trade is present at
Togochale. This trade involves livestock, khat, some grains and cereals, coffee
and second hand clothing. The unofficial trade of these goods is sometimes
also referred to as informal cross-border trade, but is not always illegal.
According to a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
report, informal cross-border trade occurs when business activities cross
borders based on supply and demand imperatives (UNECA 2012). Informal or
unofficial trade at Togochale is regulated by government import/export
licenses, which are issued for fixed commodities to individual traders. Some of
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
these licences were, at the time of research, capped at two thousand dollars a
month for people who live in Togochale and surrounding areas.
The stimulant khat dominates both official and unofficial cross-border trade
at Togochale. The demand for khat is overwhelming on the Somali side of the
border and the supply appears endless on the Ethiopian side. In January 2012,
cross-border trade in khat was estimated at one million Ethiopian birr a day,
an amount approximately the equivalent of fifty thousand US dollars at the
time. This was an official estimate, based on the trade that was accounted for.
The illegal trade is said to be equally profitable. The economy of the Harar-
Jijiga-Togochale area is dominated by khat. Both large- and small-scale
informal trade in khat is present in the border area, as well as in the nearby
towns of Jijiga and Harar.
Next to khat, livestock trade features prominently in cross-border trade
activities at Togochale. Sheep, cattle, goats and camels are the main types of
livestock that are exported across the border. Central to this trade are the
extensive Somali networks that control the trade. The trade is regulated by
intricate systems that have been developed by various Somali clans. Indeed,
large-scale livestock trade is dominant not only in the eastern Ethiopian
borderlands, but in the entire Horn of Africa sub-region. For the best way to
witness the intricate trans-border trade in eastern Ethiopia, one needs only to
visit the Babile camel and cattle market. Babile market is the biggest in the
eastern part of Ethiopia and is strategically located on a major trade route.
Babile is located on what Majid (2010) calls the “Harar-Jijiga-Hargeisa-
Berbera corridor.” This village-town is located on the main road between
Harar and Jijiga, where the Harar highlands give way to the Jijiga plains.
It is arguable that informal cross-border trade features high on the trade that
takes place across the Togochale border. The numbers have increased
exponentially since the early 1990s. As mentioned previously, this has much
to do with the political changes that have taken place in the region. The current
Ethiopian government has prioritised and accelerated economic development
in the country, and this is reflected in the country’s economic statistics. It is
also observable at the Togochale border, which witnesses a high traffic
volume. A number of borderland inhabitants are engaged in many sectors of
informal cross-border trade on which they rely for their livelihood.
AHMR, Vol.2 No2, May-August 2016
This paper explored patterns of cross-border movement namely migration,
refugee movement and cross-border trade since the 1960s in eastern
Ethiopia. The paper used archival material and secondary sources to construct
a historical narrative of strong state presence at the Togochale border of
Ethiopia. In doing this, the paper argued and demonstrated that the notable
presence of the Ethiopian state at this border is a consequence of how the
Ethiopian state conceptualises the notion of territorial statehood. The
Ethiopian state has a long history of statehood, which is much longer than
most African countries. This is a result of the unique processes of state
formation that unfolded beginning in the nineteenth century. From this
experience, the peripheries became central to the conceptualisation of
territorial statehood in Ethiopia. Even in the face of many challenges to
Ethiopian territory, successive rulers prioritised the maintenance of the
territorial integrity of the state. This meant paying close attention to the
country’s borders. This explains why the Ethiopian states’ relationship with
its territory, and borders in particular, appears to go against the African norm
of limited state presence at the border.
The paper problematised the lack of history and context in contemporary
analyses of African statehood. In particular, the paper rejected the traditional
approaches to statehood that are rooted in Weberian sociology of the state.
These approaches frown upon forms of statehood that depart from the
Weberian framework. To overcome this limitation, the paper employed an
interpretive approach and a qualitative methodology that combines historical
and ethnographic methods. And by using a constructivist inspired
methodology that is inductive, interpretive and historical, the paper
contributes to the body of knowledge that seeks to provide historical context
for contemporary processes of state formation in Africa. A blanket approach
to understanding African territorial statehood does not get us far since it is
often embedded in a singular colonial narrative, which then impedes our
ability to understand atypical cases such as Ethiopia. The paper has
demonstrated that a country like Ethiopia developed its own specific
conception of territorial statehood, which led to the establishment of a unique
relationship between the state and its borders.
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Recent discontent with the notions of the state and state formation in the African context and an accompanying preoccupation with the ‘decline of the state’ has much to do with the way that the state and state formation have been conceptualized. There has been much discussion of late of the ‘overdeveloped’, ‘underdeveloped’, or ‘soft’ state, plus ‘uncaptured’ populations and ‘exit options’. These notions were a reaction to the shattered illusions of a post-colonial voluntarist view of the state that was held by many analysts and actors alike. It had various modernization, democratic, neo-colonial, socialist and revolutionary versions. There was an assumption of malleability of both state and society, of linear success and increasing strength that has been increasingly belied by evidence of uneven (and even diminishing) control, resilience of traditional authority patterns, poor economic performance, debt and infrastructure crises, the emergence of magendo or second economies, reductions in administrative performance, curtailment of capacities, political instability and resistance and withdrawal. Underlying these new discussions is often a tone of surprise and bewilderment. Believing that a broader historical, comparative and analytic perspective is useful, this chapter will present and delineate the notion of the patrimonial administrative state as the underlying form of domination in Africa today, above which floats a host of varying and changing ‘regime types’.
As illustrated by the cases of Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea, host states in Africa do not formulate their asylum policies in a political vacuum. Instead, asylum policies are affected by a range of political, economic and historical factors, often unrelated to the presence of refugees. While the importance of these factors is clearly recognized by representatives of African host states, they have not been given the prominence they deserve in research on refugees in Africa. In fact, a critical understanding of these factors, their origins and how they interact has not figured prominently in the literature on asylum in Africa. Given the changing nature of asylum policies, however, and the range of factors unrelated to the presence of refugees that can affect the quantity and quality of asylum afforded by a host state, a more critical understanding of these broader factors is crucial for a more effective engagement with the question of asylum in Africa.
This now-classic examination of the development of viable political institutions in emerging nations is a major and enduring contribution to modern political analysis. In a new Foreword, Francis Fukuyama assesses Huntington's achievement, examining the context of the book's original publication as well as its lasting importance. "This pioneering volume, examining as it does the relation between development and stability, is an interesting and exciting addition to the literature."-American Political Science Review. "'Must' reading for all those interested in comparative politics or in the study of development."-Dankwart A. Rustow, Journal of International Affairs.