Khat and the transformation of post-conflict
New article explores the role of khat in post-conflict recovery and state building
In the article, Peter Hansen explores the widespread consumption of the mild stimulant khat in post-conflict Somaliland. Khat is often presented by external observers as a hindrance to the continued development and democratic transition of Somaliland. Looking beyond khat merely as a problem, this article examines khat as an ambiguous drug with both negative and positive effects on the economic, political and socio-cultural life of Somaliland.
The recent growth in khat consumption is linked to dispersal, unemployment, socio-cultural changes caused by the civil war, and the massive inflow of remittances. Khat surely represents a significant economic drain on the Somaliland economy, as virtually all khat is imported from Ethiopia. However, khat it is also an important source of income for the state and an employment opportunity for thousands – especially for urbanized women. Similarly, the consumption of khat among government employees challenges the efficiency of state institutions, but also provides a participatory and peaceful political environment that is vital to the democratic transformation of Somaliland. Khat also causes the breakdown of families and seriously challenges Somali socio-cultural identities, values and practices. However, the article argues that khat also strengthens male networks, communities and senses of belonging to Somaliland.
Comparing the role of khat in Somaliland with khat in other areas of Somalia still troubled by conflict, it is unclear if khat in itself contributes to state building and peace, or state failure and violence. Rather, it is the socio-cultural, political and historical context in which khat is consumed that determines its larger societal effects. The article argues that a nuanced analysis of the positive and negative aspects of khat building on local perceptions and practices is necessary in order to work with khat from a regulatory and developmental perspective.
The article is published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology: