By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
February 19th, 2023
Over sixty years have now passed since most African countries gained independence from European colonialism and yet Africa seems to be still under the tutelage of others, and the Horn of Africa States is one of those regions that tried to move forward but were pushed back into traps that were set long before independence and freedom. Indeed, the Horn of Africa States, have gone decades behind other regions of the continent through internal rifts that have ruined the region and the future of its people, although one cannot rule out the meddling of others who have interest in the region. But the region is different from the picture painted by others. It does posses its own history and deep culture, much older than many noveau countries, which pretend some kind of power over the region relying on forces beyond the region.
The blame game, which is how usually many of the region’s elite try to explain away their tardiness and their inefficiencies and reliance on old fashioned tribal instincts, is no longer accepted and the region, is at the starting point of a new impetus to move forward. The struggle continues and many are pushing back the region to the tribal strives and one often encounters those who are lamenting how their tribe or clan were wronged by the other tribe or clan. They forget that appeals to chieftains and tribal instincts was left long ago, in the rest of the world. The Greeks left tribalism and chieftains some three thousand years ago and developed today’s modern governance infrastructures of democratic institutions. In the Horn of Africa states, some people still find pride in their tribal/clan chieftains and work on destroying national governments. This is what opens doors for others to maneuver themselves into the affairs of the region, which complicates matters.
The region has rich natural resources. The geostrategic location is one of them. The maritime resources, of its 4,700 km long coastal belt, the source of the Blue Nile waters, the Simien mountains and the general high plateau with plenty of rains, and food-producing lands, and the growing young educated population, are all assets to be proud of and exploitable for the region’s development.
Instead of harnessing these resources for the betterment and development of the region, the no gooders of the region are busy dismantling the region and embarking on terrorism both religious or tribalistic or otherwise. They keep killing each other for no good reason, and most probably at the behest of others unknown, from the West or the East, peu import, but still foreign to the region. How many kids are dying or would be dying for motives beyond their comprehension?
Today marks an important day in the continent. Its leaders are gathered in the headquarters of the African Union, Addis Ababa, which is also one of the most important centres of the Horn of Africa States. There was a time when the countries of the Horn of Africa states were part of the leading countries of the continent and had their say in matters of the continent. Today, the region remains a shadow of its past and is stigmatized as the starving, hungry, and tribally invested warring region, where people kill each other for some unexplainable reasons.
Despite the seemingly bleak situation of the region, it has achieved some progress. Peace is slowly being established in Ethiopia and many parts of Somalia and people go about their daily chores as any place else in the world. It is how entrepreneurship, community interests and comfort of their being is apparent, abhorring others who meddle in their affairs. It is where self-help and reliance on oneself reign despite the negative picture painted by the others.
There are no shortage of resources in the lands and seas of the region, and there is no deficiency of knowledge and information either. What is holding back the region is generally perception. It is the perception of most Africans, including many of the people of the region that they cannot do. Indeed, they can do and achieve more than they imagine.
In the region, people know the bad impact of the so-called NGOs that come into and play havoc in the region. The people of the region, which now total over some one hundred sixty million still prod on and do not rely on handouts and food brought from the outside as they claim. Old pictures of many years ago are constantly repeated in the international media, to show a picture far from the reality of the region. This is not to say that there is no hunger issue in the region. There is hunger and there are famines, but this is similar to the same hunger that occurs in other parts of the world. The Horn African one is exaggerated and taken to levels that make it a hopeless region.
The region is not at all that hopeless a region. There are educational institutions of all levels, and reasonably good health infrastructures which caters for the region’s population. Roads and other physical infrastructures, including ports are being developed and the region owns advanced telecommunication companies and media networks in terms of tv stations, newspapers, air travel facilities, ports and many other services that meet the needs of the population.
The region has shown resilience in the face of large and seemingly insurmountable forces arrayed against it. Its people and their achievements are felt in many parts of the world. One would encounter them in the other parts of Africa including East Africa, Southern and Central Africa, all the way to West and North Africa. The ingenuity of the Horn African is also felt in Arabia and more particular in the trading cities of Jeddah and Dubai. They have even gone further to set up commercial and business activities in East and South Asia – in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and others. We should also include Europe and the Americas, where they are pushing their business acumen and other skills, including leadership.
This does not mean that the people of the region do not make mistakes. They do. The mess of South Somalia is a perfect example. It is the hope that Somalia would manage it for the better as Ethiopia has done with respect to the TPLF mess. The overall picture is that the region has problems, but this is not at the level displayed and put forward by the international media and the NGOs from other parts. The region is no longer a pawn in a chessboard, and it is fixing, slowly but surely, the problems of the past several decades for the better.