The Suez Canal was created in the late 1800’s, and allowed the European international trading economy to explore beyond the Red Sea and into the various ports along the Indian Ocean. This particular geographic factor becomes the primary motivator for how European colonization of both the Republic of Somalia and Eritrea affect the regions current political and foreign relations. In an effort to secure the economic benefits of these port nations the foreign powers were highly aggressive in their acquisition of land and how control was maintained. The methods employed often stifled the development of local institutions for governance and fragmented the local structures that were already in place. These colonization tactics largely employed by the British, French and Italians left these East African countries unable to create legitimate or authoritative power after their departure. While the results from their shared colonial legacy are similar, the methodology in which it occurred is different between Eritrea and Somalia.
Pre-colonial Somalia existed as a rather homogenous collection of a single ethnic group that had the normal divisions of various clans and rival powers. The large Arabic and Persian presence that was result of its trading history also heavily influenced it. The general land was arid, with the interior population living separate existences from the coastline population groups. The lack of a single governing institution allowed for European domination to be rather swift and subsequent fragmentations into French, Italian and British domains rather simple. As suggested by Nunn the lack of a significant pre-colonial force made the colonial institution that much more destructive. The important difference between the Eritrea and Somalia was the particular severe fragmentation of Somalia. In the case of Eritrea they were more dominantly influenced by the Italian occupiers and adopted a large part of the foreign culture. In the case of Somalia however their current political system is largely an attempt to recover from the split amongst four separate vying powers (Ethiopia, Britain, French, and Italy). This split presently causes regional conflict between local governance and ethnic clans. Due to unification being their most pressing goal, foreign relations has often been on the back burner of situations in which in many instances they have maintained neutrality.
Pre-colonial Eritrea was definitely more unified in comparison to Somalia despite its nine ethnic groups, because of a shared antagonism towards neighboring Ethiopia. The land was also arid and agriculturally challenging, enough so that the Italians entertained the idea of it being a penal colony rather than a breadbasket nation to feed the masses. Italian occupation of Eritrea however imposed more of a racial hierarchical system, which heavily influenced local governance with that of Italian fascism. This system was not much unlike South-African apartheid, a social reality that Eritrean citizens came to truly resent. This particular legacy has lead to the current autocratic governments seen currently within the nation.
Somalia is definitely a microcosm for the disastrous effects of colonialism in which borders were just arbitrarily drawn. These two countries along the Horn of Africa subsist in the current failed states because of the legacy of harsh colonial rule that ended abruptly, leaving a vacuum of power. In these particular cases foreign aid and intervention seem like unlikely solutions, to a greater systematic issue that must be solved by civil revolution.