By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
July 6th, 2022
IGAD stands for the Intergovernmental Authority for Development. It replaced its predecessor, IGADD or the Intergovernmental Authority for Droughts and Development. Both institutions comprised the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti (the “SEED” countries) and four other countries that are not part of the Horn of Africa, but for some unknown reason are included as part of what is referred to as the “Greater Horn of Africa” i.e., Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda. Except for Sudan, the other three countries actually belong to the Swahili world of the East Africa Community. Sudan belongs to the Arabic- speaking Egyptian Sudanese Alliance, the two Nile downstream countries.
IGAD, indeed, is an unworkable concoction of countries whose destines are not interconnected but which have been forced into an unmanageable grouping that do not share much, in terms of culture, history and even geography. Article 7 of the Agreement establishing IGAD, puts the aims of IGAD as follows:
- Promote joint development strategies and gradually harmonize macro-economic policies and programmes in the social, technological and scientific fields.
- Harmonize policies with regard to trade, customs, transport, communications, agriculture, and natural resources and environment, and promote free movement of goods, services, and people within the region.
- Create an enabling environment for foreign, cross-border and domestic trade and investment.
- Initiate and promote programmes and projects to achieve regional food security and sustainable development of natural resources and environmental protection and encourage and assist efforts of Member States to collectively combat drought and other natural and man-made disasters and their consequences.
- Develop and improve a coordinated and complementary infrastructure, in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy in the region.
- Promote peace and stability in the region and create mechanisms within the region for the prevention, management and resolution of inter-State and intra-State conflicts through dialogue.
- Mobilize resources for the implementation of emergency, short-term, medium-term and long-term programmes within the framework of regional cooperation.
- Facilitate, promote and strengthen cooperation in research development and application in science and technology.
- Provide capacity building and training at regional and national levels.
- Generate and disseminate development information in the region.
The goals and aims by themselves clearly indicate the unworkability of the proposition for many of the countries do belong to other organizations with differing goals and objectives. Three East Africa Community members of IGAD (Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan) cannot have the same policies as well as co-ordination with members of IGAD that contradict with policies of the East Africa Community. Sudan is a country tied at the waist to Egypt and would, therefore, always swim along with Egypt in its economic, political and even social development structures. The source countries of the Nile would always follow riverine policies that are different from downstream countries. There are many other contradictions within the IGAD region that point to its failures and unworkability and hence a need for a reformation of the total project by segregating the actual Horn of Africa States region from the large IGAD concoction. The double-dipping of countries like Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda is no longer acceptable and they should concentrate on one of the institutions they belong to – The East Africa Community (EAC) or the Horn of Africa States (HAS). There is no place for a hybrid institution such as IGAD seems to represent.
IGAD has, indeed, failed in conducting any of its missions. At present there is no co-ordination of joint development strategies or harmonized macro-economic policies and programmes. There are no harmonized policies with regard to trade, customs, transport, communications, agriculture, and natural resources and environment, and no promotion of free movement of goods, services, and people within the region. In fact, none of the goals of the IGAD has worked out to date and one of the most important objectives of combatting droughts and famines has been an utter failure. And the question is why should it continue to exist and work as the NGO it has turned out to be, for it is financed lock stock and barrel by donners and not by the owners – the eight African countries of the Horn and East Africa?
The leaders of IGAD minus the leaders of Somalia and Eritrea met again in Nairobi yesterday (July 5th, 2022) for the 39th time to discuss “peace, security and other regional matters”. They came up with new terms such as “Smart Livestock” development programs when the not-so-smart previous other programs did not work. It is difficult to define “Smart Livestock” development programs except perhaps to note that it is misleading for livestock only needs feedstock and water i.e., water wells and dams to stop water from running away during the few times it rains in some parts of the region.
Perhaps the only tangible issue was the side meetings between the two antagonistic countries of Sudan and Ethiopia, with Sudan becoming a pawn in the conflict instigated by Egypt to hamper the development of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, to reduce the border tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia. This was a first summit of the Heads of Governments for some 18 months and as usual they called for help from outsiders on the worsening drought situation. They did not discuss nor propose how each would contribute to the drought and food shortage in the region.
And as usual, their opening statements were as hollow as they ever were. They included: “As leaders, it’s incumbent upon us to work together and to do so boldly and creatively to navigate the multiple crises that we face, seize opportunities as they emerge and define a path of peace and sustainable economic development. It is in our interest to do so,” from one of the presidents. The closing statements were no different as they only “Expressed Alarm” regarding the serious drought situation in the region and predicted to be the worst in 40 years”. They did not note what they would collectively or individually do to avert the situation in the present or the future.
Thus, IGAD remains one of those intergovernmental organizations that have no purpose other than being a club of heads of governments who meet once in a while to pronounce hollow statements not followed by any real actions, until the next meeting when they also repeat the same meaningless speeches, after spending monies that could have been used to avert the plight of drought stricken populations. They could have met through zoom and saved a lot for their poor populations!!!
“A roaring lion kills no game,” didn’t they say in the past or more plainly “talking is not the way of achieving a goal”. It is perhaps time that IGAD, the failed institution was dismantled, and more concentration was given to enhancing the truly relevant organizations of the Horn of Africa States and the East Africa Community, and so on.
*Dr. Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected]