By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
November 1st, 2022
The way things are today, there are only two choices. The region splits into miniature states or would become a powerful region, which sits at the table of nations proud. We look at the Somalia syndrome of federation. Is it sensible to have a homogenous nation split up into miniature states each with its family anthem, army, police, pseudo-government, and many other pseudo-structures that only add to the huge bureaucracy that is stifling the nation? Isn’t Ethiopia on the same route, with equally large ethno-based federal structure in place? Indeed, Somalia copied Ethiopia. Even Djibouti is exposed, despite its small size ad Eritrea would be a pandora’s box should the nine nationalities of the nation decide to go their separate ways, if and when the current strong government vacates the place.
The civil war in Ethiopia, based on ethnic groups vying for power and the continuing squabbles among the various federal states in Somalia and the potential problems just off the horizon in Djibouti and Eritrea can only be addressed by political maturity, persuasive skills, indomitable spirits, and relentless efforts by leaders of the four countries of the region? The question is, do they have the capacity and quality to take on such a venture to save their people from the continuing miseries of today? I hope they do. It is great men who lead nations and peoples out of political doldrums and seemingly endless interferences from beyond. It is the nature of the world to have ambitions on other peoples’ lands when one feels weaknesses and disarray in those peoples.
We know many on the coastal countries would be hesitant to create a joint forum with the interior lands, simply because of some uncalled-for fear of annexation. We know that Ethiopia is the largest country in the region but deprived of access to the sea. Countries like Djibouti or Somalia, know the story of Eritrea in the middle of the last century, when a federal consensus ended up in annexation, followed by a long and difficult war to extricate the country from that process. We also know that Ethiopia would be wary of Somalia’s claim on the eastern third of the country and the Ethio-Somali wars on the matter are still fresh in the minds of many people. The Eritrea-Djibouti quarrels over pieces of rock on the two countries’ border remains still an outstanding issue.
However, despite these historical and even present issues, the need for the four countries to work together to create a better cohesion for their mutual interests is greater than the internal matters that have been a pain in the region’s recent history, where the meagre resources of the region are spent and deployed on weaponry and killing machines instead of development, food security and protecting the region from the ambitions of others from beyond.
There is always the possibility for reasonable people to work out achievable solutions that can incrementally be improved over time and we believe that all the current leaders of the four countries have the capacity to work with each other, should they be willing to do so. We are hopeful, they would take up the mantle and change the history of the region for the better. Persistence and relentless efforts is the key. The region, although comprising of different branches of the same ethnic group, enjoys a lot they share and a lot that would be beneficial to all, working together instead of working separately. For one, the economies of scale, because of the size of the market itself, would be good for the region. The negotiating power the region would enjoy with non-regional parties for import of goods at better prices and exporting also at better prices, would be good for the region.
Regional infrastructural development would come cheaper for each country should they be working together such as the building of roads, rail, airports and even seaports, instead of working individually, when the costs of development would be skyrocketing high. We know of the massive obstacles ahead by just looking at some miles to the north of Addis Ababa, where it seems an intense undeclared separation war is at play. Is disintegration into miniature states beneficial to the region? I certainly do not believe so and it is why I continually spend my time and a lot of my energy to persuade not only my friends but the population of the Horn of Africa to revisit their situation, which currently leaves a lot to desire, and embark on a new route to survival, in this harsh world of today.
Integration does not mean many things such as follows:
- It does not mean one loses one’s freedom or one’s clan or tribal land. The land would be owned “As Is” and used to benefit not only the owners but also the rest of the region.
- It does not mean that a group would take over control and never give up, creating a dictatorship in the African way. There would be rule of law covering local and regional perspectives.
- It does not mean that Ethiopia will absorb the others. Neither would the others absorb Ethiopia or the others. Each country will exist “As Is”. But the rules of the game will change in each country to allow certain actions and activities to smoothen integration in certain fields.
- It does not mean that the integration desired would be achieved by force but rather by persuasion or diplomacy and eventually by plebiscite in each country to proceed with the process of integration.
- It does not mean to diminish the power and prestige of each country. Each country would have control over its territory but allow certain rules that enhance free movement of people, capital, goods and services within the region. It would also allow the region to collectively present itself to the rest of the world as one block which is protective of itself. The internal and external security of the region would be collectively protected.
- It does not mean that the constitution of each country will be completely thrown out. Each of the country’s constitutions would be logically amended to enable each country to work with other members in such a way that a collective integration of the economy of the region, collective defense of the region, collective foreign and security policies of the region, collective justice of the region, and so on will all be assured.
The intention of the Horn of Africa States is to strengthen the region so that it can survive in this world where regional collectivisation, mainly on trade and economy but also on security, is most important. The key to achieving the Horn of Africa States would be the following:
- Improving the lives of people of the region.
- Improving the economic and socio-cultural development of the region.
- Ensuring regional peace and security.
The Horn of Africa States would be better off as one block instead of the four countries acting working separately.