Publication: “Little Dubai” in the crossfire – trade corridor dynamics and ethno-territorial conflict in the Kenyan–Ethiopian border town Moyale

By Katrin Sowa, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne.


Against the promise that new trade corridors in Africa lead to political stability and state control, this article presents a contradictory case. In the context of the implementation of the LAPSSET corridor, Moyale at the Kenyan–Ethiopian border has been undergoing a transformation. The formerly marginalized border town is today envisioned as a major trade hub for the region. However, this development has been recurrently disturbed not only by trade barriers and import regulations but also by violent clashes between local communities. Moyale’s history, economic rivalries, and an intra-federal boundary dispute make the new corridor a specifically dangerous setting for the local population, while alternative smuggle routes are perceived as more reliable and secure. The text provides insights into ethnographic research in a particular violent surrounding. Qualitative interviews and participant observations were conducted with locals and border officials in Moyale during clashes between the Borana and Garre communities in 2018. The article aims to understand trade and security strategies on the ground, which are far from being controlled by state monopoly.


Sowa, K. 2023. “Little Dubai” in the crossfire: trade corridor dynamics and ethno-territorial conflict in the Kenyan–Ethiopian border town Moyale, Journal of Eastern African Studies. DOI

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