By Dr. Suleiman walhad
April 19th, 2022
As the map clearly indicates, the Horn of Africa is a distinct region. Obviously, it does not include Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan, and South Sudan. The Horn of Africa States comprises Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti (the “SEED”). Yet we see references to Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Sudan when the Horn of Africa States are being discussed in international forums. It is perhaps high time when a spade was called a spade. The countries of South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya belong to the larger region to the south of the Horn of Africa States, internationally known as the East Africa Community, which was recently also acquired as a member, DR Congo. The East Africa region has enough to chew, on its own problems, for now, they stretch from ocean to ocean with all the internal strives in that vast territory. The countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi all, part of the East Africa Community, have forces in the Horn of the African States and include themselves stealthily in the Horn of Africa region. It is, as they say, in the way of bullies, the life of “what is mine is mine and what is your is also mine”.
The Kenyans, the Ugandans, and the Burundians should mind their own internal business, of which there are plenty and they should leave the Horn of Africa States to its wiles. However, despite the distinct and obvious features separating the two regions, those who know less about the region mix the two and inform still others with even lesser knowledge of the region, and unfortunately, the obvious wrong reading of the region influences the decision-makers of the world with falsehoods, which the region was better off without.
If the Kenyans and Ugandans and Burundians wanted to hire off their soldiers to the UNO, the African Union, and other NGOs just to keep them busy and away from toppling their governments like what happens in most African countries, they should improve the rule of law in their countries instead of their fear of their own soldiers, which they send them to faraway countries to trouble other peoples’ lives. And the irony is that the United Nations, the European Union, and other NGOs pay them.
The Horn of Africa States has experienced their presence and except for a very brief period, in the beginning, their usefulness was found to be lacking and it would be good for nations of the world and the United Nations, the EuropeanUnion, and the African Union, in particular, to shorten the times they deploy the blue and green helmets of the UNO and Africa Union respectively, to send its soldiers to any particular territory, and then ship them back to their holes where they came from. It should not become an employee for soldiers of countries to be sent to others and paid for, not by the country sending it but by others. In fact, every country sending its soldiers abroad should be responsible for the upkeep and equipping of its soldiers, including their salaries. Other countries should not be paying for the expenses of foreign deployments. Otherwise, the rules of international laws would not be functional as the last seventy years have proven amply.
That should have been the way the United Nations is organized, where those who have good intentions of helping others in trouble should pay for the costs they are embarking on and not hire mercenaries to do the job they are supposed to do. The Horn of Africa States knows thousands of soldiers from the East Africa Community, who when they go back to their countries will end up in the streets, for they would not be able to find in their own countries the kind of life they got used to in the Horn of Africa States. The United Nations, The European Union, and the African Union are not doing these poor soldiers a favor.
And why is Kenya and Uganda and South Sudan counting themselves as part of the Horn of Africa States when they know they are part of the East Africa Community? Is it not like I will eat from this table, and I will eat from that table, and I will eat from wherever I can?
They say that extreme events are becoming common in the Horn of Africa States, and shouldn’t one ask oneself why? We know that in the Horn of Africa despite its plenty of water, its large landmass, and its long coast, which is a rich fishing ground, extremely deadly events are regularly recurring. They are droughts and famines and wars and conflicts. All of them are man-made for if there was peace the people would concentrate on how to handle these matters. However, they are not given the chance, for foreign mercenaries, supported by malicious NGOs, who all live in Nairobi, the capital of all the malevolent NGOs, live off the broken backs of the people of the Horn of Africa States.
Obviously the East Africa Community and the mercenary armies of NGOs it hosts crept into the Horn of Africa States region through the now dysfunctional Intergovernmental Authority for Development (“IGAD”) as well as direct illegitimate interventions such as what Kenya did on Somalia and they will definitely complain when Somalia wakes up and claims a third of Kenya including the coast all the way to River Tana estuary, in the future – the natural Somali territory in Kenya, often known as the NFD. The NFD will join the Horn of Africa States and Kenya will let it go of its own free will, at that time.
The world is going through a difficult period and the Kenyans and Ugandans, and Burundians are better off in their own environments, in these uncertain times. A good neighboring region would be a better one than an antagonistic relationship between these two important regions of Africa where cooperation and working together must reign. “What is yours is mine and what is mine is mine” is not going to be a workable relationship in the future. The East Africa Community is large enough and rich materially both in people and other resources, should not play this deadly game of “what is mine is mine and what is yours we share or is mine too”, and members of that important region should advise their members that they cannot go to other regions without the Community’s approval. It is not a good neighborliness!
The policymakers of the East Africa Community should be able to reign in their individual members from embarking on adventures that would be not beneficial for the region. They should look at all matters holistically, where all members at least at the foreign ministerial level, are consulted before a member launches its own external outreaches. The activities of Kenya or Uganda and/or Burundi are not acceptable in the Horn of Africa States. They have done what they could do, and the Horn of Africa States is thankful to them. They have already passed the time they were supposed to leave. They should not overstay and particularly in Kenya whose activities in the region are unacceptable and in particular its interference in the election processes and in the civil wars in the region.
We understand that some of the members of the East Africa Community would be torn between where they want to be but there are factors that as clear as the blue sky that no country should be torn in choosing where it should be. Kenya is one such country where belonging to its traditional Swahili world and its future economic impetus would pull it in different directions. But then again, Kenya has deep roots in the Swahili world and why should it be perturbed as to which region it should belong.
Neither the Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) nor the Somalia stabilization projects should not be a focus for Kenya. The first issue, the LAPSSET, belongs to the NFD, a major future dispute between Somalia and Kenya and if Kenya had any sense, it would not invest heavily in a region which poses a potential conflict zone and the second issue is of no consequences to Kenya for Somalia and Kenya are far apart in ever working together, at least in the foreseeable future. Somalia sees its future as belonging to the Horn of Africa States and Kenya would not be an important player either in its political future nor its economic development. Kenya should focus on its East Africa Community membership.
The East Africa Community has many loose ends and needs to refocus on its lofty goals instead of each member doing what it sees fit for its individual benefit. Recently, we were reading in the media that refugees from Africa would be returned from the United Kingdom to Rwanda. Is it a direct Rwanda story or are the members of the community working together? Would the refugees be distributed among the members of the region? How can this be a regional block when each of the members does what it does on its own without regard to the other members?
They say groups and organizations create structures that represent the rules of the game they have agreed upon. Without following those rules, there is no group or organization and the East Africa Community, as disorganized as it seems to be, should keep its members to itself and let the Horn of Africa States be.
Like many other African organizations, the leadership of the East Africa Community appears to be the core of the organization or regional block with little else to share. Even the leadership of the region does not communicate well with each other and accordingly, once an organization, like the East Africa Community, does not involve communication among the various sectors of its populations, businesses, and other societies, it is doomed to failure. They should be working on their problems instead of working for NGOs and others beyond the region. This would save the Horn of the Africa States and others from their problems.
*Dr. Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa’s economies and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org