Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

State Terrorism and Globalization: The Cases of Ethiopia and Sudan

Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

State Terrorism and Globalization: The Cases of Ethiopia and Sudan

Article excerpt


In this article, I examine the essence of state terrorism in Ethiopia and Sudan in regional and global contexts. From the late 19th century to the present, the 'modern' Ethiopian and Sudanese states have been formed, consolidated, and maintained by state terrorism and global connections. The Ethiopian state was created by the alliance of Abyssinian (Amhara-Tigray) dependent colonialism and European imperialism, and the Sudanese state by British colonialism known as the Anglo-Egyptian condominium. In both Sudan and Ethiopia, colonial political structures dominated by persons claiming Semitic descent emerged through a strategy of massive social and cultural destruction and political violence. Although Christianity is the main ideology of the Ethiopian state and Islam is the principal ideology of the Sudanese state, the elites and societies that have dominated the political structures in both countries share a strategy of racializing their own identities and those of indigenous Africans to Africanize and marginalize indigenous population groups and facilitate the process of Abyssinianization and Christianization in Ethiopia and Arabization and Islamization in Sudan. In addition, just as successive Ethiopian state elites have maintained their legitimacy and survival through external connections and domestic political terrorism, the Sudanese state elites that emerged through the process of decolonization in the mid-20th century have depended on external connections and terrorism for their legitimacy and survival.

First, I provide historical background to the processes of state formation in the two countries. Second, I explore the global, regional, and local processes through which the modern Ethiopian and Sudanese states emerged. Specifically, I demonstrate how global connections and state terrorism have been used as political tools for creating and maintaining the confluence of identity, religion, and political power; in other words, I examine the connection between terrorism, globalism, and the process of racialization and ethnicization of state power. Third, I explore state terrorism in Ethiopia and Sudan and conclude that in these two countries there can be no multicultural or multinational democracy, peace, stability, or development without removing the conditions that have facilitated external dependency and domestic terrorism.

Historical Background

Since ancient times, repeated episodes of migration from Arabia have led to a series of conflicts revolving around issues of religion, identity, land, and power between indigenous African population groups and the Africanized Arab descendants in the countries that today are called Ethiopia and Sudan. The modern ideology of the Ethiopian state evolved from what was once the Axumite Kingdom of Abyssinia, which Africanized descendants of Arab settlers formed in the first century AD (Michels, 1991). The Axumite Kingdom accepted Orthodox Christianity in the fourth century through the commercial relationship it developed with the Greco-Romans. However, Muslim Arab immigrants who arrived after the rise of Islam in the seventh century subsequently challenged the Axumites and spread this new religion throughout African coastal towns. As Islamic influence increased, the commerce of the Axumite Kingdom started to decline. In the mid-11th century, the previously colonized Agao people established a kingdom known as the Zagwe Dynasty by overthrowing the Axumite Kingdom. This dynasty lasted until 1270, when it was overthrown by one of the groups that descended from the remnants of the Axumites. These Axumite descendants developed a separate identity known as Amhara.

The Amhara ethnonational group and another group known as Tigray are collectively called Habashas or Abyssinians. The Habashas developed a common religion, tradition, and set of customs, but the Amhara and Tigray have maintained different languages. Although phenotypically and culturally Africanized, the Habashas have suppressed their Africanness by linking themselves to the Middle East and by considering themselves racially and culturally superior to indigenous Africans (Jalata, 2001). …

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