The Horn of Africa States Peace and Development Challenges

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

April 15th, 2022

The Horn of Africa States, representing the four states of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti “SEED”, were plagued for over a century by forces from beyond. In fact, the four states were formed by these foreign forces and ever since, they found no peace for pseudo-nationalisms and ethno-based conflicts were instigated within the region, using some of the unscrupulous sons of the region, in addition to climatic changes, drought and man-made famines.

It all started with the Europeans, followed by the cold war antagonists of NATO and Warsaw Pact, and continued by the Americans and its lackeys in the region and now the Chinese have come to push over the Americans. What does this pose for the region?

We know of the American footprint in the region in its endless war against terrorism and its presence in Camp Lemonier in Djibouti and Balli Doogle in Somalia to name a few of the American presence using hired soldiers from the region to do their “works”. The Chinese have also shown up in the region with its first foreign based naval base in Djibouti and this overt competition does not pose well for the Horn of Africa States, which needs peace and development and not conflicts beyond the region being played out in its soil and seas. The Horn of Africa States must know that they are targeted individually for a country like Djibouti stands no chance of confronting either China or the USA and the same goes for all the other three individually.

We can see Somalia struggling through an election process that should have been completed in one day like all other election processes in the world. In the Somali case, the election process dragged on for some two years and remains incomplete today and how is this possible? We will let the reader use his/her imagination to figure out the whys and the how’s!

In Ethiopia, a peaceful country for quite a long time and the beacon of hope for many other African countries, historically and economic development, out of the blue, found itself in a civil conflict and war in 2020 and that conflict still lingers on. It does not pose well for the country.

Eritrea has been a pariah in the region for quite some years and it is only recently that the chains around the country were being slowly removed only to see that those who do not wish it well are working hard to keep it in the enclosure designed for it. Djibouti plays all the cards, and this tiny state would not stand the pressures exerted on it, in the longer run.

It is why the way, to survival of the region of the Horn of Africa States, lies in the four countries working together to face the external pressures and have their populations saved from the miseries emanating from the influences of foreign related issues and their own internal idiosyncrasies. Remobilizing the populations towards living together with their neighboring populations in the region should be a prime target of the ruling elite of the countries of the Horn of Africa States.

The old prejudices should be removed, and the slate cleaned off the antagonisms, the fake nationalisms and the ethno-federal governing structures that were put in place by those who did not wish the region well. It would be on the onus of the ruling elite, the academicians and the new young bloods to come up with a format that is workable for all members. A partnership in the format of the European Union would be ideal with grand outlines of the rule of law within the region. The member countries can have their own internal rules, but they should be in line with a master treaty approved by all the populations individually through referendums in each country.

The master strategy of China is to tie together the European, Asian and African economic zones into one giant Afro-Eurasian economic zone, while the Americans would first look into the western hemisphere as their traditional backyard. The Americans are, however, overambitious as usual and are also looking into competing with China in the Afro-Eurasian zone through an initiative they call the “Build Back Better World”. This is an infrastructure financing mechanism for low- and middle-income countries,  and it is designed to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. How both will fair, we leave it to the future!

What should the Horn of Africa States do in this fierce competition between these giant bulls? It is not easy for a poor region, such as the Horn of Africa States is, to play one against the other, but welcoming both and taking advantage of whatever is offered to the best of the region’s ability would be good. However, as they say there is no free bread, and the price tag might be high. It is where a collective approach to the matter would be the most appropriate.

A man had ten sons and he gave each one a stick and then he asked the first one to break his stick and it split into two parts. He took back all the sticks and added a tenth one to replace the broken stick and then asked his son to hold them together and break them. This time it was difficult. Teaming together and working together provides a stronger negotiating ploy and this would lessen the pain. It is high time the Horn of Africa States took advantage of its main resources – the seaways, the river waters, the strategic location and its growing and talented large young population in addition to its sub-soil and above soil wealth, which all add up to a significant force, other regions would seriously pay attention to. It is the role of the leaders and ruling elite to guide and prepare the region for the future.

The much-pronounced idea of China not interfering in the internal policies of countries has not been proven for their full support for ruling elites and corrupting them is reported in the international media. However, the fact that any foreigner would attempt to influence the leadership of poorer countries cannot be disputed. It has always been the ways of history. Both the Americans and the Chinese are after their interests and why shouldn’t the Horn of Africa States look after its interests too? And since they cannot individually be able to negotiate better terms, is it not a clever idea for member countries of the Horn of Africa States to work together? While some would attempt to disrupt this co-operation among the Horn of Africa States, in the long run, they would fail. As we say, it is better to swim together than to sink divided.

 

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