, Volume 92, Number 5

Alice Hills
Prompted by the trend to see information and communications technology (ICT) as a tool for capacity building, this article asks whether the use of ICT has—or can—recast centre–periphery relations in a hybrid country such as Somaliland. Taking as its departure point Herbst’s observation that a fundamental problem confronting African leaders concerns how to extend or consolidate authority over sparsely settled lands, it uses recent developments in Somaliland’s coast guard and immigration police to assess ICT’s contribution to changing security provision in remote and coastal areas. This allows for an analysis of Somaliland’s law enforcement framework, the relationship between its politics and practice, the practical application of its coercive resources, and the Silanyo government’s priorities and preference for consensus and co-existence whenever security imperatives allow. It suggests that ICT can be a desirable operational tool or a variable in existing power networks, but that it does not represent a new mode of security governance. ICT’s potential to connect Somaliland’s government and populace, and politics and practice, is for now minimal, but identifying the ways in which security actors such as coast guards actually use ICT allows for a more accurate assessment of the variables shaping centre–periphery relations. Contrary to Herbst’s observation, the Silanyo government does not need to overtly or systematically extend, consolidate or exert its authority in remote and coastal areas. Spatial metaphors such as centre–periphery help to clarify the situation, but the significance invested in them reflects western rationalities, rather than Somali realities.

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