By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
July 10th, 2022
It is fully defined now, the Horn of Africa States! It is marked by droughts, secessionism, interference from the rich and powerful, in an already devastated environment, where the rains have even stopped to come regularly in anger at whatever is going on, in the region. A vast region which is home to some 157 million poor souls, part of the world’s poorer populations. Yet the region is said to be potentially one of the richest! But starving, unfortunately!
The Horn of Africa States, the SEED countries an acronym for Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, remains at the bottom of nations and its leadership, despite being supposedly educated in the sense of the modern ways, are yet unable to find a solution for the plight of their populations, though they desire to find the optimum way(s) of improving the lives of their individual countries. It is where and how the idea of an integrated region Horn of Africa States, working together for the betterment of the region’s population, was born.
Working together is the only way out for all the other ways of individual national development processes have come out to null and void. Individual countries have become pawns for interfering more powerful nations, more powerful in terms of military, economics and even populations. How could a small country like Djibouti or civilly disturbed and a broken country like Somalia or a besieged country like Eritrea and now the only historically strong but shaken country of Ethiopia, simply because it wanted to make a dam to provide electricity for the great majority of its population, survive the harsh regimes, each is exposed to?
Even the climate is not co-operating with the region, perhaps because its sons and daughters have angered God so much so that a curse has befallen it. No rains and hence no food! No rains and hence no water to drink! And the people and their animals are dying by the thousands and maybe even millions. But we also know that it does have plenty of water and it can grow its own food and in fact owns some original grains native to the region only, that can feed millions of them. How are people dying of hunger and thirst then? Is it because the people are not working the large farmlands of the region? Or is it because they are not allowed and forced out?
It is a mixture of both, in the honest way of looking at things. When one only sees greener pastures elsewhere and one ignores the riches one has, one can only conclude that the region has brought all these problems to itself, for they stopped farming their lands, all striving to emigrate to other distant lands, many of them dying on the way and hence stopping tilling their lands to plant their traditional native grains. They also became divided into ethnic groups and tribes and clans and sub-clans and eventually became pawns for pseudo-politicians. Why should countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea be importing grains from Ukraine or Russia today? And since Russia and the NATO-backed Ukraine are at each other’s throats themselves, how could there be imports from these countries into this poor Horn of Africa region, which can barely afford to feed itself?
We also know that many farmers are forced out of their farmlands because of ongoing and endless civil wars going on in the region between the states and its populations and among the ethnic groups within the countries. There are no investments in the region, for money is generally a very fearful commodity and does not venture into countries that have ongoing wars and civil strives. Why would one invest where there is a war underway all the time, from one clan on another clan or from one country on another or a region in a country on another? And now with international terrorism taking advantage of the chaos, making the region, one of its main home bases!!!
Where is the solution to this nightmare in this Godforsaken region? It is our belief that it lies with the region’s leadership to decide first to find a solution and not wait for others to find solutions for them. The second step is to have the leadership of the region putting their heads together like all other parts of the world and deciding to work together and tying themselves to each other at the hips. And the leadership should be understood correctly. It does not involve only those in power but also those in opposition and the Accademia and the traditional leaderships but excluding terrorism, an evil international disease exploited by some for their own unscrupulous goals.
It is why an integrated Horn of Africa States has not become only an option but a necessity, a real necessity for the survival of the Horn of Africa States populations. The resources and sovereignty of the region are both at stake today for some countries with newly found wealth and powers are working hard to dominate the region. They are working to own the major infrastructures of the region and use them to serve the major powers of the world, that are competing today both from the East and the West. Why would a middleman country represent the region and present it to the powers that be, today? Shouldn’t the region represent itself as an integrated whole to provide services to others and benefit from such services and resources?
The Horn of Africa States is generally represented as a starving region that always needs a helping hand. Is this the case or is the region conditioned to act this way? We know it has a large landmass, and a large body of water (oceans, seas, lakes and rivers and even aquifers) and both are able to sustain, feed and develop the region for hundreds of years to come and millions more of people. Yet we also know that the people of the region are still starving and always calling for help from others or are emigrating away from the region. This is not normal, and we must find solutions for this plight of the region. An integrated Horn of Africa States (political, socio-economic and security) is the way out and becoming ever more necessary, though many of the people of the region have been indoctrinated from birth to hate each other and their neighbors. The leaders of the region should work, as a constant, to remove those old prejudices and antagonisms created in years past to divide the region and hence exploit it.
The New Humanitarian Today in an article on May 31st, 2022, noted that some 17 million people of the Horn of Africa States are exposed to hunger and, of course, death if urgent addressing of the matter is not worked out. But this is not something new! They say the same thing year after year. Why is it an emergency now when they knew that this was going to happen years ago. It is not the fault of The New Humanitarian Today, but more the fault of the leadership of the region. They know that individually they are incapable of handling the matter for they are busy fending off others from causing more harm. Would it not have been much better if they worked together and worked on all fronts together – feed the people and fend off the others from beyond?
There is where the necessity for an integrated Horn of Africa States is rooted and a tree with deeper and more spread roots does not fall easy. Today each country wiggles for they are not strongly rooted. There was this anecdote of this widowed mother of three sons who were young and weaker than other siblings from another mother who were stronger. The widow, in order to protect the inheritance of her sons, instructed her sons to sit together every day at a distance from the nomadic camp for all to see. This was designed to ensure that others think that these young men must be consulting each other on how to protect their rights and that they may come up with a plan that would eventually weaken the older and stronger ones. The trick worked, and the sons of the widowed mother were given their rightful share of the inheritance. Why shouldn’t the Heads of States of the governments of the region, at least, put their heads together or come together in gatherings on regular basis? Definitely, they would work out some plan to work together which would help the region and its populace.
Working together at the head of states level is only a beginning, for they need to encourage and in fact lead the populations grow their food, make their implements, trade with each other, produce products for export and indeed, eventually reduce reliance on others for the wellbeing of the region. Why should a region with some 4700 km of coast and full of seafood and fish be starving? Why should a region with large river basins (The Blue Nile, the Omo, The Shabelle, the Dawaro, the Juba, and others) be thirsty and hungry when they can grow food. Why should a region which owns some native grains (teff, millet, barley and sorghum)) and other food plants, like the ensete, corn, bananas, coffee, the maroola, and others that can feed millions of people, be starving?
The climate shocks are not new to the region for they date back to the last century – the seventies and eighties, but they are being exasperated now by foreign driven conflicts and hence political instability. These conflicts and political issues can only be addressed through a collaborative attitude from the region’s leadership both from government and opposition groups but excluding terror groups who have no pity for no one except their masters.
Collective action through an integrated regional institution – the Horn of Africa States or “H.A.S.” is the solution for the Horn of Africa. Such an institution should be modelled on the European Union with a Master Treaty on whose guidelines the constitutions of each country should be based. Such an institution should have organs such as an Executive Commission, A Council of Ministers, A “H.A.S.” Parliament, A “H.A.S.” Court of Justice, A “H.A.S.” Economic and Social Committee and a “H.A.S.” Monetary Committee and so on.
Like the European Union and unlike IGAD, the budget of “H.A.S.” should be funded by a percentage of each member country’s gross national income, as well as other sources. The members decide what this percentage would be. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. H.A.S. should only adopt most of the infrastructures of the European Union and adjust it to meet the local needs. Definitely, the smaller countries would require adjustments for their representations, and this should be handled in ways that are very similar to how the Europeans managed their smaller states.
The world is evolving at a fast pace and new organizations are coming of the production lines. One cannot wait until the waters settle down. It is time the leaders of the Horn of Africa States worked out or initiated a program for the establishment of the Horn of Africa States. In addition to traditional world bodies, there are now the G7 grouping, the BRICS grouping, the G20 grouping and others. Perhaps, the concept of the Horn of Africa States would look to some as some fantasy, but surely the Horn of Africa States need each other and more particularly in view of the attention of world powers to the region.
We know that the United States, the world’s most powerful country has appointed a special envoy for the Horn of Africa States region. They did not appoint a special envoy for Somalia or for Ethiopia or for Eritrea nor for Djibouti. The Europeans have their special envoy for the region and the Chinese have now their own special envoy and most recently the United Kingdom has appointed its own special envoy to the region. The United Nations and the African Union have both special regional envoys to the region. Who will be next? It is a clear indication that the region is important for others and the region’s leadership should take note of this. Although with a starving population, the region remains significantly important for many a region or a block or a country beyond the borders of the Horn of Africa States and even multi-laterals. We should at least recall the region is the source of the Blue Nile and that it is also the gateway for all trade ships destined to pass through the Suez Canal, let alone the potential oil and gas resources of the region.
The world apparently needs a stable cohesive Horn of Africa States Region. It is time its leadership realized this and took onto themselves the responsibility to complete the task of reforming the region for the better.
“Unity in Diversity”
*Dr. Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org