By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
April 4th, 2023
Closer relationships among the SEED countries would no doubt worry countries and regions that have interest in the HAS region. The countries and regions that most worry about close cooperation and collaboration among the Horn of Africa States region would no doubt include Kenya and the EAC, Egypt and the Arab World and, of course, the United Arab Emirates and the GCC countries. But such a decision as to form a formal institution for the region, although it may have been alluded to some three years ago, is now on the wane and the backburner, and should not worry them. The bigger countries of the region Ethiopia and Somalia seem to be drifting apart with Somalia on the move to join rightly or wrongly another organization, the EAC and this would be a loss to the country that would have benefitted most from such an organization as HAS, namely, Ethiopia. It would appear Ethiopia would have no ambitions to create a new organization where it can play a leading role. The Horn of Africa States would have upgraded a lethargic region such as it is now into a formidable political syndicate
The Horn of Africa States as a formal region would offer economic and political support to the member countries, reduction of trade barriers within the region and with others and finding better solutions to the internal conflicts in each of the member countries. The region would be better able to harness the region’s resources and would be a new force to reckon with, not only in Africa but also globally, as it overlooks one of the main seaways of the world, and is the source of the Blue Nile which provides fresh water to northeast Africa. They have not yet embarked on the matter, and only time would, perhaps, tell how much they are already losing in not creating such an organization and/or the losses they would entail when each member state works on its own wiles alone and unaided by the other members of the region.
Those who are opposed to the formation of the Horn of Africa States within the region and from without the region must be rejoicing that the biggest economy in the region, Ethiopia, is laid back and cannot see and touch the opportunities at its door which it is missing. Perhaps there is need for the biggest country in the region to raise the call and accelerate the process of forming a formal HAS region instead of concentrating on the dysfunctional organizations, like the IGAD, which are financed by others, and which hence serve others instead of the region. Begging hands never make progress.
The Horn of Africa States is an old region which shares together a lot of history and culture that date back to thousands of years and languages that are rooted in the Afro-Asiatic tongues. Perhaps a commission to steady the possibility and feasibility of forming a more functional HAS organization would be good at this time.
Presenting common political stands to the world, would be beneficial for the region as regional perspectives on various issues would be laid out collectively. These issues may involve financial, logistical, political and other perspectives. These are challenges each individual member has to face and it is always better to face issues together. This would enable the region some clout in addressing many complicated matters involving internal, cross-regional matters, and even global matters.
How does the region collectively benefit from the China’s One Belt One Initiative or the United States’ Triple B project or other global projects where bigger nations and collectives offer large support systems to sway others in their favor? It is not necessarily challenging them but working with them on win-win contracts.
It should be clear to the region’s member countries that other countries and regions plan and work day and night to dominate the region. We know the EAC involvement in the region’s affairs, even expanding its drug industry, the Khat business in Somalia, and the UAE and other GCC countries’ involvement in the region. Instead of such relationships being tipped towards the outsiders, the region can collectively negotiate with them on win-win contracts that not only serves the interests of the outsiders but also the region.
One must note that these regions and countries that have interests in the HAS region would not fold their hands and watch the region moving towards creation of a regional organization. They would mobilize all their forces financial or otherwise to disrupt the formation of the HAS region. They are already doing this and the pushing of Somalia to join the EAC, with which it shares very little, is a prime example.
The HAS region is not a threat to anyone or any country. One must note that it is only to develop cooperation among the countries of the region and develop the region to ensure that it serves its people better in a more peaceful and more secure way. Some people believe that this is simply collecting the Cushitic world together, but the Cushitic world is much larger than the Horn of Africa States. Cushitic people populate countries like northeast Africa and north Africa and they have populations centres in the EAC and beyond.
The Horn of Africa States (HAS) should have no interest in dominating others and should not therefore pose any threat to any region or country. We know this is probably wishful thinking, as those regions and countries who have interest in the region would prefer to keep the region weak and further weaken it as they have been doing to Somalia, and others for the past three or more decades. But the HAS project would be a game changer in the region sooner or later, and the sooner the better.