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Today: July 23, 2024

The Horn of Africa States: A Better Leadership Is Possible

June 26, 2024

Dr. Suleiman Walhad
June 26th, 2024

Over decades now, we have presented the Horn of Africa States discussing, explaining and narrating through many dimensions the raison d’etre for an economic integration of the region. The  articles and books we initiated and penned, in this respect, have pleased, disappointed, and/or angered many, but overall they have enlightened many more on the region and pulled back the veil of the mysteries of the region, which make it to be an almost household news item everyday not for successes it has achieved but for its endless conflicts, its hunger and its large exodus and refuge populations across the globe, and indeed, its geostrategic location and  our relentless writing on the subject.

In this article we shall examine the leaderships the region throws up once again and at least those of the last three decades, which have made the region almost the laughingstock of the world and where many look at it with pity, sadness at times, and curiosity at its labyrinthine tribal/clan structures, which fascinates many, disappoints many and, which have been the main cause of the competition for power in the region.

Leadership, they say, is a process where a group of people, a community, a region and/or a nation is moved towards a specific goal or scheme, which stimulates them to work through their own choices. A leadership theory answers three main questions, namely the what, the why and the how of things according to Bian Whetten (2002). The questions define the goal, the methods and the reasons behind selecting a particular process. Leadership involves a timeline of the past, the present and the future.

How have these leadership processes affected the region and what kind of leadership has the region thrown up over these past decades? Could it have done better or could it do better in the future? These and many other questions come to mind when leadership, in the Horn of Africa States, is being discussed.

Perhaps the first thing to note is that the region includes Africa’s only indigenous state which has not only remained independent of European colonial rule but also acquired under its rule regions which did not belong to the original state. The Somali people who are the most widespread and constitute a large population in the region, although having had sultanates in the past, mostly became under European colonial rule, which approached the region through the sea and hence took over control of most of the Somali lands and territories, while the hinterlands of the Somali territories were acquired by the Ethiopian state.

This background has mostly disrupted the equilibrium the region achieved after the medieval wars and continues to weigh heavily on its leaderships including the current ones. The large volume of write ups on the region, which we have produced so far, were all directed at re-establishing the kind stability and equilibrium the region needs, which would have participated in its economic development and political maturity.

The colonial systems which the different states inherited have partially contributed to the different outlooks of the populations of the region towards each other and towards life in general. The French, the British and the Italians all left their footprints in the region and indirectly affect the populations of the region, which need to go back to their roots and re-establish the traditional highland/lowland cooperation and mutual co-existence, trade, and cultural exchanges.

Leaderships of those bygone days did not stand in the way of an individual to settle in any place in the Horn of Africa and they all learned from each other and exchanged both goods and services. The nation-state format which was brought up by the European colonial countries do not appear to be a permanent solution for the region for it divides families and people.

The history of the region during the centuries before European colonialism, does, indeed, indicate that despite the divide in religion between mostly Islam and Christianity in the region, the populations mostly lived together in peace. Ethnicity, other than occasional brawls of youth, was never the devastating destructive force it has presently become.

The history of the region further notes that starting with the advent of colonialism and continuing to this day the region seems to be marked by ethnicity and hence competition for power on ethnic basis. In Ethiopia, one notes the tribal wars raging in the country and the resentments of one tribe against another while in Somalia, a supposedly homogenous nation, clans and sub-clans seem to be continuously at each other’s throats and even forming a federal infrastructure based on clans. It is impossible for a Somali from one region to be politically involved in a new region which he or she chooses to settle other than his original clan home.

Both Eritrea and Djibouti presently remain under strong leaders much like Somalia and Ethiopia were in the past decades of the twentieth century. What would happen after their departure, no one knows but the experience of the region does not pose well for either.

This sorry state of leadership in the region emanates from the failure of the elites of the region, which have let themselves to be led by their tribal/clan emotions instead of the required nation-building processes. This is a remarkable feature of the region – its highlands and its lowlands, its farmers and its pastoralists and, indeed, even its urban populations, irrespective of whatever religion they profess to.

In our quest for an integrated Horn African states region, we sometime must pause, for we see the difficulties in building a nation state in the region, let alone an integrated economic region. However, we must prod on in the hope that this will teach the bulging youthful population of the region of better ways than the current processes led by the leaders of the region.

This requires an enlightened leadership based on the region’s traditional humanity, which involved not only honesty, but also trust, and not doing onto others what one would hate to be done onto one.  It is justice and fairness that is the core of leadership to manage people and hence achieve successful feats of national and regional development.

It is perhaps time the elite of the region instead of staying on the sidelines, moved to the center of issues. Fear never solved any problem and the mistakes of the current leaderships can only be corrected by the concerted efforts of well-meaning intelligentsia of the region.

Reliance on foreign states for budgetary support and other government expenditures is downright wrong and unnecessary. The elites must encourage their people to play their rightful roles to pay their taxes, which should be managed well, fairly, and transparently.

The misappropriations which currently mark the region appear to be related to the sources of those funds which do not involve the sweat of the people. Perhaps when they have contributed to the government coffers, they would not let their kin and kith and government steal like they do these days.

The region’s peacebuilding processes cannot ignore the informal traditional processes which obviously are always running parallel to the government and public infrastructures. They help and must be deployed by the leadership of the region. The governments should work on national reconciliation processes, which are managed well and not based on tribe/ clan issues but on what is good for the countries, involving trustworthy elites.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Dear Dr. Suleiman:-

    Let me start with your assertion “Perhaps the first thing to note is that the region includes Africa’s only indigenous state which has not only remained independent of European colonial rule but also acquired under its rule regions which did not belong to the original state. ” Here is a troubling question about the “original state”. What is it ? Where is it ? How far did it extend ? You have no answers to these questions regarding the region in the 18th. century and earlier.

    You then go on to tell us “The history of the region during the centuries before European colonialism, does, indeed, indicate that despite the divide in religion between mostly Islam and Christianity in the region, the populations mostly lived together in peace. Ethnicity, other than occasional brawls of youth, was never the devastating destructive force it has presently become.” Are your statements consistent with each other ? The “original state” idea appears to have now disappeared, and rightly so.

    With reference to the current weak leadership in the region, you state that “This sorry state of leadership in the region emanates from the failure of the elites of the region, which have let themselves to be led by their tribal/clan emotions instead of the required nation-building processes. This is a remarkable feature of the region – its highlands and its lowlands, its farmers and its pastoralists and, indeed, even its urban populations, irrespective of whatever religion they profess to.” This is where we still need to work harder together.

    America, with its great diversity, is united, peaceful, growing and dynamic under a democratic system where every citizen can pursue his/her interest under a rule of law. Our region is much less diverse, but with little or no respect for rule of law, and this is mostly engineered by a selfish and short-sighted elite in the the leadership. With rule of law as the guiding principle for democratic governance in the region, our lowlands and highlands have all other essential resources to build a prosperous region. South Africa achieved this at one stroke in 1994.

    • Right on brother/sister! Right on!

      Some of the points by brother Dr. Suleiman are right on too!!! I wish you two can put your sharp minds together and educate us all in matters that concern the entire Horn of Africa. First and foremost, both of you should accept the historical fact that every country in the Horn of Africa was not created in its current form by the auspices of one individual only but also by will/choice of its people. Eritrea was not slapped together by Brother H.E Isaias but by the wishes of its citizens. Ethiopia was not put together by Menelik only but by the mighty army of Gobena, Kumsaa, Alula, Mikael(Mohammed Ali), Tekle of Gojjam and others. Somalia was not created by Af-Wayne Ziad Barre but by the goodwill of its people. Djibouti was not the product Hassan Guled but by the overwhelming majority of its citizens in the UN sanctioned referendum of 1977. All of them are having nagging issues but none of them are not in a hopelessly decaying state or do not deserve to be singled out as a decaying/dying state. The Horn of Africa is full of miracles. When a country seemed to be hopelessly down and out, it somehow finds ways to resuscitate itself back to life by its patient and visionary citizens. ‘Greater’ this or ‘Greater’ has proven itself beyond the benefit of a doubt to be the recipe for self destruction. Let this facts hit home with every one of us first before saying or writing about that region. Let’s go!!!
      Blessings to you and your families!

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