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The Greater Horn of Africa Cycle of Conflict and Turbulence

የአፍሪካ ቀንድ የግጭት እና ትርምስ ዑደት

The Horn of Africa was historically a spirited region of the globe, and reversely continues to be an intricate and tumultuous region today. The entire region, including the greater coastline of the Red Sea, is being mirrored and strangled by geopolitics, political upheaval, and regime change. The region is comprised of developing nations and fragile states; while some nations in the region have made substantial economic progress, others remain underdeveloped and fractured.

The nations that make up the Horn of Africa are susceptible to internal and external shocks, which have the potential to have national and regional repercussions. With a distinct perspective, there is a country in the region that has closed its borders to the outside world to avoid manipulation and intimidation from the global north. Traditionally, the Horn of Africa consists of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia; however, the Greater Horn of Africa also comprises Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya.

The expression of the wider Horn of Africa cycle of war and instability has to be contextualised and adapted to fit the specific circumstances.  Over the course of the last five decades, the area has been the scene of a variety of battles, each with its own unique scope and magnitude. And yet, a number of conflict-inciting factors remain in existence, including tribal governance arrangements, chauvinism, maladministration, and favouritism among the few.

The continuing violence in Sudan, the battle that just concluded in Ethiopia’s northern corridor, and the fighting that is still going on in western Ethiopia are significant episodes. In addition to the antagonism between distinct factions in South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti also feature prominently among the depictions of regional conflicts. There are a number of internal and external players that are acting as belligerence brewers. To be more explicit, the newly formed geopolitical powers, together with a mix of “traditional superpowers”, made the equation exceedingly complex to fathom.


Conflict in Sudan: Examining the Current Situation

The current conflict between two military factions in Sudan is not only a manifestation of antagonism but also a cyclical absence of democracy and people-centred governance. As of 15 April 2023, violent strife broke out in the Sudanese military administration between competing groups. Fighting first broke out in the western part of the country but soon spread to the capital of Khartoum and the Darfur area.

The current political climate in Sudan calls for a more nuanced understanding and a comprehensive investigation of the interplay of historical, political, economic, and social elements. It has been a factor in the frequent outbreaks of violence that have taken place between the civilian population, the military institution, and in certain instances, the state and its peripheries. Despite this, postcolonial Sudan fell apart at the hands of a restricted ethnic and religious mentality that was once contemporary and civil politics that were relatively democratic in Africa.

The postcolonial history of Sudan, which has been characterised by political and civil strife, that is inextricably linked to the ongoing war and cannot be separated from it. Since independence, the Sudanese populace has been subjected to hardship, and its decades-long military dictatorship has frustrated its hopes for a more honourable way of life. Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been primarily governed by a military regime, with limited periods of democratic civilian parliamentary rule and adequate citizen representation.

The current rivalry conflict has grown more complicated as it has continued. Multiple local grievances, shifting alliances within Sudanese politics, and geopolitical alignment in the region and further afield have spawned numerous reasons for armed conflict. There are multiple external political manipulators, and some have a lengthy history as a traditional alliance, while others are new players.

In this matrix, the roles of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are significant, but so is Israel’s, which has a direct or indirect influence. Nonetheless, the devastating conflict has produced a pattern of interlocking power struggles, which are now being waged at various levels.

There are multiple causes for this barbaric and uncivilised act of war, which exacerbates its severity. Regardless of who participates in this “game of thrones,” the Sudanese people will not benefit; instead, the cycle of violence will persist. And I do not believe that Sudan will not transition to a civilian government in the foreseeable future.

The collateral effects of this conflict will affect the region, including a humanitarian catastrophe. It should come as no surprise that “the quagmire of international political intrigue” will persist, and as a result, the area will endure even more suffering. In addition, we have seen that regional and sub-regional bodies need to be more informed as a consequence of having a limited institutional mandate and inadequate ability. This is something that we have observed. I refer to the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in this instance.


The Current Situation in Ethiopia

Following the Pretoria Accord, relatively Ethiopia has had a period of political stability, which is a somewhat hopeful consequence. In addition, there is reason to have optimism about the dialogue attempt with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The wars that have been raging in the country for the last three years have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, severely damaged the nation’s essential infrastructure, and utterly shredded the social fabric.

From the government’s perspective, they must realise that a singular approach will only contribute to a partial peace solution. While appreciating the dialogue between the government and OLA, the government should make an effort to include other Oromo political actors.

With analogous attempts, the administration needs to think about whether or not it should bring on board silenced voices from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). And other similar organisations with unresolved grievances that are not vocal must also be approached. The point is that the government should not pursue a peaceful resolution with those who are armed; otherwise, a poor precedent will be established, and the cycle of conflict will persist.

Regarding disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR), it is common knowledge that Amhara activists in the country and abroad have significant concerns and objections. The concern relates to identity issues, the administrative border, and the development of trust. Whether or not the concern is legitimate, it must be addressed appropriately and resolved peacefully.

The DDR was the outcry for many concerned citizens, including myself; it is long overdue. However, the current governance structure and the political alignment need to be addressed alongside the DDR operation, at least at the political framework level. Otherwise, Ethiopia needs more farmers than soldiers to address the underdevelopment and food self-sufficiency. Our historical enemy is backwardness, poverty and unemployment, not someone who resides on the other side of the administrative border.

The primary purpose of this piece is not to examine the complacency that existed before the conflict or the leadership shortcomings that were present on both sides. Instead, I want to focus on what we, as Africans, can do to break out of this never-ending cycle of violence. Despite the fact that I value the progress made towards peace, it is imperative that a political conversation be held, not only with the parties who were involved in the armed struggle but also with political opposition groups both within and outside the nation.

The government must engage in a nationwide political dialogue with political parties, the public, and academia in order to establish a fully flagged, enduring peace and tranquilly. Priority should be given to delivering justice to the conflict fatalities of the past three years. In tandem, the government has increased its efforts and support for a pragmatic and solution-oriented national political dialogue and reconciliation.

I emphasise that the real impact of justice must be administered. This conflict injured a large number of individuals, and the nation still bears the scars; the matter must be treated with extreme severity. The government must recover and appropriately compensate the victims and society. There is an Ethiopian proverb which fits to scenario (አለባብሰው ቢያርሱ በአረም ይመለሱ) meaning “uncoordinated ploughing makes you to return back with weeds.” The procedure need not be conducted or guided by a European Con court. Instead, it is feasible to implement an Ethiopian traditional justice system involving the elderly people and academics.

I believe that Ethiopia is the only nation with a “Ministry of Peace.” Since the establishment of this department, however, instability and war sorrow have engulfed the entire nation. This reminds me that in the majority of countries with the prefix “Democratic Republic”, there is neither democracy nor a philosophy of republicanism, but not always. In a similar vein, Ethiopia is the only country in the world headed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, with the exception of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. In spite of this, the country could not finally find a moment of calm until today.

The national political thinking has to become more mainstream. Tribal leaders and their accomplices from the onset have fashioned a revisionist and restricted narrative to whitewash the insurgency’s high crimes over the last half-century; this should cease. The false story that has strangled the people had no intersection with reality and tolerated no criticism. Justification for responsibility revolving around its facilitators in equal proportion.


Overall Evaluation of Peace and Stability in the Horn of Africa

In light of the current situation, the Horn of Africa, a region characterised by its population diversity, is awe-inspiring, exhilarating, and yet utterly daunting. The region is at a crossroads not just from an ethnic and historical perspective but also in terms of peace and development. In this context, countries with highly diverse legacies share a close cultural intermix, although some have distinct political pasts.

The question that has to be asked is where the Horn now is in the political trajectory towards a more significant consolidation, a greater unity, or a greater disintegration. This area continues to be affected by internal divisions within countries among countries. Hence, the territory is becoming more subject to the exploitation and depredations of anyone who wants to surf from outside and into this region.

One of the challenges is the region’s lack of pragmatic collaboration, which has been replaced by political interference in the internal affairs of other neighbours and widely acknowledged proxy manipulation. During times of political instability and economic uncertainty, it is both inevitable and normal to worry about the people living in close proximity to you. Considering that the collective destination is the same, however, interfering with national interests is fraught with multiple consciences.

Since I have already discussed Sudan and Ethiopia in detail, it is reasonable to use the same concise note to discuss Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan. Starting in Egypt and extending all the way to Somalia, the Red Sea corner is regarded as a highly protected commercial lifeline for carriers that influences European trade. Peacekeeping is as essential for the Europeans as it is for the Horn of Africa. Djibouti plays a crucial function in this regard; however, the question is wide open in favour of whom? In addition, we cannot overlook that Djibouti is home to several international economic actors and superpowers.

Eritrea is shrouded in mystery regarding its internal affairs. It is a debatable topic whether Eritrea chose isolation or was isolated by the rest of the world and/or Africa. African country that actively seeks freedom from the ideological dominance and demeaning acts of the West. In addition, I revere the effort of self-sufficiency, especially as it pertains to sustenance in a more constructive future.

Somalia is still on a long road to restoration and revitalisation, but there are so many positive developments that I am optimistic. In recent years, there have been numerous positive developments on which we rely. In particular, the power transfer took place without violence, more territory was under the central government’s jurisdiction, and attacks on people were minimised. In addition, the private sector and the Somali diaspora are investing heavily in the country.

Sadly, South Sudan has gone through a terrible and regrettable divide along ethnic lines and political leader groups. South Sudan still struggles with fragility, economic stalemate, and political instability. Poverty is pervasive and is made worse by things like war, forced migration, and other outside influences. High inflation, insufficient primary service delivery, high unemployment, high rates of gender-based violence, and rising criminal activity have all contributed to the economy’s near collapse. Cattle raiding and land conflicts between pastoralists and farmers cause conflict in several regions of the nation.

The continent of Africa as a whole and the Horn of Africa, in particular, were ultimately anticipated to reach a point where they could stand on their own in terms of their economies, political systems, and security. It is in the best interests of the people of Africa for it to be possible for them to achieve true economic independence and genuine decolonization. This is the primary goal I want to campaign for to maintain peace and tranquilly across Africa.


General Assessment and Recommendations

The failure of peace and tranquillity in postcolonial Africa has many variables. However, the most particular challenge is a dependency on government mercy for political, economic, and sociocultural solutions. Let me underline this point to construct more sense; in most undeveloped countries, mainly African nations, the government is the only source of “doer and creator”; another sector of the society has not had much say. Thus, a fundamental shift in the role of society and the adoption of a participatory, active stance will be decisive in resolving the ongoing conflict.

The repercussion of such a participatory governance vacuum has a serious flaw, and we have witnessed the results in the last six decades. The conventional wisdom has demonstrated that in the absence of broad societal participation, there is limited coexistence among different sects of tribes, religions and language denominations.

The truth is that the ongoing conflict and the cycle of violence will continue until there is concrete action to get all parties involved on board. In order to alter society, the government, the corporate sector, and non-governmental groups would collaborate in an all-encompassing way.

On the same note, African society needs to understand the theory’s distinctive description of government, private sector and none state actors from face value and intrinsic nature. For that matter, the aim of “government is sizing and maintain political power; the purpose of the private sector is driven by profit maximization, and the none states actors’ motive is the value proposition.” but not always true, or the values may vary from place to place. However, having them all is critical in ensuring peace.

In the peace process, the media, religious institutions, non-state actors and academia all play crucial roles in advocating peace and establishing conflict resolution agencies. One of the most significant challenges in Africa is maintaining peace and stability absence of impartial and independent institutions. Partially due to the fact that the government is the only reliable source of financing, while the non-state actors and private sectors are primarily fragile and feeble. This is one of the reasons why in the absence of a comprehensive approach, the cycle of violence continues.


Seife Tadelle Kidane (Ph.D.) is a member of the Africa Institute for Strategic and Security Studies (AISSS) Executive Board, the Director of Strategic Research, and a Senior Research Fellow at the IPATC, University of Johannesburg.



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