By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
May 3rd, 2023
High energy costs and rising food prices coupled by the now nearly a month-old Sudanese crisis would no doubt have an impact on the Horn of Africa States region in this year which is almost halfway to its end. The political upheavals of the region and low intensity but definitely continuing internal conflicts of the region, would keep away the region’s leadership from their normal business of governing and make them busy with assuring of security and peace. Thus, the year 2023 would as usual, appear to be heading towards ending up as one of those years where nothing of substance happens in the region, other than the usual dealing with internal rifts, fights against terror and droughts and call for food from the international community. The region has even missed an opportunity to supply food to other neighboring regions such as Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula that relied on large food supplies from Sudan.
As usual, regional powers like the GCC countries, Turkey, and Egypt and behind them, major powers like the USA, Russia, and China and their allies have descended on the region following the Sudanese conflict and all battling for influence in this larger northeast African region – Sudan and the Horn of Africa States, which represent a geostrategic area of some 3.8 million square kilometers encompassing not only the Great River Nile basin but also one of the major seaways and choke points for international shipping and hence global trade – the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean and the great Sahel region to the west and the Congo basin to the south. Perhaps the whole conflict of Sudan and the larger northeast Africa, which appears problematic as always, is due to the competition among the major powers of the world, the latest flare up coming from the fear of western nations of a potential Russian base in Port Sudan to which the Sudanese authorities appear to have recently agreed.
The clashes in Sudan, if not abated early on, may spill over to neighboring countries and regions. It may suck in Chad and hence the Sahel region and Ethiopia and Eritrea and hence the Horn of Africa States, and finally Egypt. All these countries have their own internal problems, and the Sudanese conflict may spark more. The nature of the conflict in this greater northeast Africa region is complex with multiple tribal actors and foreign interests all pursuing divergent and multifarious goals and interests. This may have roots in the conflicts of the West Asia region, which have destroyed and ruined many countries, like Iraq, Syria and Libya and Yemen.
While it may be easy to blame foreign interlopers all the time, it is perhaps good time when the northeast African regional leaders should take the blame for having failed their peoples and countries, and more so the Horn of Africa States region, which has experienced terrible years of conflicts and resultant man-made famines and poverty.
Through sitting together and consulting each other and discussing matters with each other, they would assure themselves space and thought-provoking moments to solve some of the obvious problems, peeling off one layer at a time. Many of the current leaders look up to the international community to solve their problems, not knowing that it is perhaps the international community that may be the source of all the ills they suffer from. Not waiting for others to find solutions for them is the key to the region’s future development and success in addressing the seemingly endless cycle of violence it is subjected to presently.