Category Archives: Eritrea

Muslim Ban? Fragile States?


Here’s Trump’s list of banned Muslim countries in red, and the ones where he has business interests are in gold. The unlabeled one at the uper right is Azerbaijan.

Trump's Muslim Ban Countries

Trump’s Muslim Ban Countries

And here’s a fragile states index for the region.

Fragile States Worst

Fragile States Worst

The banned countries are places where the governments have basically collapsed. People are complaining about the relationship between Trump businesses and the presence or absence of a ban. I’m not justifying, nor am I criticizing, I’m just noting that here is some data that hasn’t commonly appeared in conjunction with the coverage of the issue.

This map originally appeared in Fragile States Index 2016.

How Somalia Got That Way


I have been looking at a collection of maps and trying to mentally compose something about the history that led to this six year old map of feuding Somali factions. I just couldn’t make it fit … until I reversed the time order of the maps I had.

Horn of Africa right before World War II

Horn of Africa right before World War II

This was the Horn of Africa in the 1930s. The Abyssinian Empire, which later became Ethiopia, held out, while the rest of the region was colonized by the British, French, and Italians.


The Horn of Africa and the Nile watershed were both carved up into unnatural divisions by European powers, primarily Britain and Italy.


But the reason the Europeans were there was the slow motion implosion of the Ottoman Turk empire, which was known as The Sick Man of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Five hundred years of dominating the region was ending and we still see the fault lines left by their retreat in the Caucasus, the Balkans, the heart of the Mideast, the Nile basin, and the Horn of Africa.

Study this last one closely. See the little Ottoman strip between the Red Sea and the Abyssinians? That’s Muslim Eritrea today, which fought for thirty years to free itself from Orthodox Christian Ethiopia.

As for Somalia, the British bit is largely self governing Somalialand and the northern half of the Italian portion calls itself Puntland. The ethnically mixed and environmentally stressed south is the part that so troubles the rest of the region.

Eritrea & Ethiopia Ethnic Groups




Eritrea spent thirty years, from 1961 to 1991, in an attempt to separate themselves from first the Ethiopian Empire, and later communist Ethiopia. The Eritrea-Ethiopia War of 1998 – 2000 was a tremendous expense for both nations result in miniscule changes in their mutual border. The roots of the conflict were Christian Imperial Ethiopia’s pressure on the Muslims of Eritrea. I suspect, but have not seen confirmation, that access to a Red Sea port was also an issue for the landlocked empire.

I don’t really have much to say about these two countries at this time, I had just collected the ethnic group maps when I was working on the previous article about Kenya, and I didn’t want to leave them sitting around in my map staging directory. Now they’re here, they’re tagged, and I can reference them when needed.

The Horn Of Africa


Deadly Tribal Fighting Erupts In Kenya caught my eye yesterday, but I hesitated to add this, because we are going to wade into the Horn of Africa. While not a part of the Horn proper, which is defined by geography, Kenya has a large Somali population, and it also shares the same climate driven food security problems. The nature of the trouble in Kenya is a conflict that has been with us for more than ten thousand years – how do farmers and herders share water and food in times of drought?


Drought is not uncommon in this already arid region, but 2011 was extreme, uprooting people from Somalia and pushing them into Ethiopia and Kenya.



The entire region is under stress, but pay attention to the speckled area. ‘Limited Humanitarian Access’. Remember Black Hawk Down?


You can move, adapt, or die when things change. When you’re in an arid land and drought hits there isn’t any adaptation – there simply isn’t enough water. You get moving or you die where you are.


Kenya’s dry northeast is ethnic Somali. The lines on the map are not as bad as the Caucasus, but there were western imperial adventures here, too. Kenya was a British holding, Somalia was French, and Ethiopia was held by Italy.


So the Darod tribe is in the dry northeast of Kenya, but aid workers can go there. They’re in Ethiopia, but their territory is deemed unsafe. Their portion of Somalia is safe. What in the world is going on here?


Somalia is a country, but that is just lines on a western map. The reality on the ground is a bit different. The largely Ishaak region of Somalialand in the northwest and mostly Darod Puntland in the northwest are not internationally recognized, but they are basically self governing. The south has been in and out of chaos and starvation for the last twenty years. I think this map is also a bit dated – UIC is the Union of Islamic Courts and the Provisional Government was ready to implode before Kenya invaded and backed them.

So what does this have to do with Kenya? I don’t typically reference blog posts, but Kenya, Reluctant Regional Power neatly summed up what I had been seeing in other places – 63% of Kenya’s GDP is the service industry, and that is dominated by tourism. They won’t tolerate any trouble in Somalia interfering with this.

As evidence of Kenya’s move towards becoming a true regional power, Kenyan forces were the first to respond against the menacing al Shabaab militants after a media frenzy erupted following high-profile kidnaps along its border with Somalia. The Kenyan Government was forced to act, worried about its reputation, its own security, and the damage such abductions might do to country’s lucrative tourism industry. Beneath these reasons, however, lies perhaps the truth: Kenya is striving to be a regional powerhouse, and in order to elevate its political standing, it decided to exercise its military might. Since October 2011, Kenya began a full-scale military operation to root out al Shabaab, not only within its borders, but in neighbouring Somalia as well. Somalia’s own army proved insufficient and inherently weak, and as such Kenyan forces felt obligated to intervene. Although since this time, Ethiopian troops as well as African Union soldiers have also entered into the fight, Kenya is clearly leading the operation.

Striking cross border to deal with a regional problem is one thing, but what happens when the conflict is domestic and driven by climate change? Not only is there the friction between farmers and herders along the Tana, but 615Mw of the countries total 1,142Mw comes from hydroelectric power. If local electric supplies stumble due to drought and the seemingly imminent European banking sector crash hobbles the usual supply of tourists, Kenya’s tenure as a regional power might be fairly short.