The horn of Africa: regional conflict and super power involvement

Author/s (editor/s):

Mohammed Ayoob

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 18

Regional rivalries in the Horn of Africa have been intense for many centuries but never has there been such a clash between neighbours as the present full scale war between Ethiopia and Somalia. However this conflict is more than simply a local war between neighbours because of the involvement of the superpowers, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., and several other regional powers. Furthermore it is a contest replete with dramatic changes and sudden switches of allegiance such as the shattering of the close military relationship between Ethiopia and the U.S.A., the expulsion of the Soviets from Somalia and the substantial military support given by the U.S.S.R. and Cuba to the embattled Ethiopians.

Dr Ayoob examines the historical roots of conflict in the Horn of Africa, the impact of the European colonial powers, and the rise of the superpower involvement in the Horn. Of particular note are the great changes that taken place and the contradictions which have arisen in both the internal politics and the international alignments of Ethiopia and Somalia. After analysis of the war for the Ogaden he draws important conclusions regarding the extent to which the superpowers can achieve real and cost-effective influence both in this conflict and in regional conflicts generally. 

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