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The Horn of Africa States: It is Time for the Leadership to Address the Region’s Conflicts

September 30, 2023

By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
September 30th, 2023

The Horn of Africa States is known for its continuing conflicts. Whenever a fire is extinguished somewhere in the region, another one flares up somewhere else. It is the story of the region over the past four decades and even earlier when the two largest countries of Somalia and Ethiopia were at each other’s throats over territories, despite both having been in the socialist camp of the time. Whether the conflicts were internal or external to the member states of the region, it is not clear if they were entirely of the making of the region or if these conflicts were driven by others from beyond the region. Conflicts became the norm of the region and both external and internal influences have played a part in their making and continue to do so.

While the Horn of Africa States is commonly known as a conflict-ridden region, nowadays, conflicts are spreading across the globe. There are the troubles of West Asia, the troubles and wars of Europe as manifested in the NATO-Russian conflict and war in Ukraine, and the other African conflicts such as those of Sudan, Niger, Mali, and others.  These all seem to be conflicts and chaos mischievously created to achieve some hegemonic power over others and people, innocent people, suffer, die, and/or are maimed in the process.

What should the leaders of the region thus be doing in this respect? Should they continue to be willing or unwilling participants? Should they not be, at least discussing these matters together? Are they still stuck with that single-state format, where each of them thinks that it can solve its internal problems and even external problems alone? In the context of the now widening and constantly spreading conflicts across the globe, and the tough and cutthroat competition among the great powers of the world, the region needs to review its situation carefully. The region would, no doubt, face security, hard and soft persuasion from bigger powers, continuing humanitarian and increased refugees fleeing the region, all because of its geostrategic location.

It is our belief that the region cannot be acting on an “as usual” basis and that just watching things as they happen, and complacency would not be a good option. Wouldn’t it be better for the region to collectively sit down together to prepare for eventualities? The single-state approach is no longer a viable option. It is where the leadership of the region should now demonstrate their capacity as true leaders of the region and take the necessary steps to prepare the region for all eventualities.

This is not to frighten the region and its populace but forewarned is forearmed. The region was not already in a safe situation, but the growing turmoil, across the globe, necessitates going beyond the single-state approach and moving on to a collective regional approach, not only to face conflicts but to build together common internal and external policies, an integrated economic infrastructure, and help each other manage the internal problems without abusing the population of the region. God helps those who help themselves, and therefore, the countries of the region should depend on themselves and their region instead of the brewing new global blocks and/or the oncoming multi-polar world.

Perhaps, the region should start working on setting up a crisis unit to monitor developments, and hence plan the survival of the region, despite its internal problems. Food security would be paramount among the issues such a crisis unit should be working on. Already the war in Ukraine has irked many countries with respect to food. The region owns a large youthful population, which it should perhaps put to work in food production, providing incentives, skills, and even financial help. Food availability would be at risk in a world at war.

The stability of the region would also be of paramount importance and hence the region should be working hard at extinguishing all the current fires and conflicts. This may not be of interest to some of the leaders of the region, but sometimes, great men and women take steps that do not necessarily address their personal goals/agendas but the larger public interest.

Over the years, I have been writing about the greater good of the region and many citizens of the region now know the importance of working together and foregoing the past, which was not pleasant. It is clear to me that the region needs to work together in the face of the growing calamities around it. I say to them that it is time for the leaders to address the region’s conflicts and avoid all actions and policies that may be harmful to the region.




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