By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
April 27th, 2022
The forefathers of the current generation preferred to live under collective states the called the “Nation”. In Somalia, the people wanted to create and bring together all Somali inhabited territories of the Horn under one “Nation” they called Somalia. The same goes for the Ethiopians who are noted to be proud of the long history of Abyssinia, renamed Ethiopia. Djibouti, the old French Somaliland, after eventually gaining independence, branded itself “Djibouti” while Eritrea, an old Italian colony in the Horn was once joined to Ethiopia and after separating from it, reverted to its old name “Hagere Erthra” or just simply Eritrea. These concoctions they called nations comprised of various ethnicities, who despite living together in the same space for over thousands of years, were not truly nations, but clans and tribes that had more allegiance to the clans and the tribes they belonged to. This is a problem for a modern nation building process.
The irony of the present generation is that while they want to retain the old fake “nations” they still prefer to maintain allegiances to their various clans and tribes. In Somalia, these multiple clans that all belong to the national ethnic group, the “Somali”, prioritize the clan before the nation. In Ethiopia there are multiple ethnic groups with different languages and that is why Emperor Haile Selassie called himself of an Emperor, who ruled over an empire. There, there are the Amhara, the Oromos, the Somali, the Afar, the Tigrayans and may others. They all seem to have allegiance to the tribes before the nation. In Eritrea, there are the Tigrinya, the Beja, the Saho, and so on and many others and in Djibouti, there are the Somalis and the Afar and then the Somali breaks down into its clan structures. All of these clans and tribes subvert the law and so how could, this generation, which dismantled the old nation-building processes, build nations?
Another irony is that many of the current generation of Horn of African State population want to follow and go to the Europeans, which were chased away by their fathers. Many of the Horn of African States clans and ethnic groups are now settled in the West – in the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and even as far as Australasia, where they are citizens. But others have spread to Africa and especially the East and Southern Africa regions, while many have gone to the Arabian Peninsula, where job opportunities are still available.
The main reason for the flight and migration is generally the discord in governance, and/or lack of justice prevalent in the Horn of Africa States or lack of employment opportunities. Although one can have grievances, how is it possible for many to deny being either a Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean, or Djiboutian? Isn’t it a great tragedy for the direct sons and daughters of the parents who died for these countries, to deny and pull down the nations they were brought up under? How is it possible that current generations are denying the works of their own parents and for what they stood? A friend once lamented on the poor leadership of a community, “If Elder so and so knew that Mr. so and so was the leader of the community, he would have come out of his grave at the speed of light.”
In these days and nights. Leaders of the region in whatever country, claim the nation but undermine it through allegiance to the clan and the tribe he or she belongs to. They subvert the law which they profess to be protecting and the others are not in the dark. They know the leaders are not being honest, for those aspiring to replace them are also not honest. How does each community in the whole region considers itself as the pinnacle of the society? A false and delusionary claim, isn’t it? If each clan or tribe undermines the next one, when would it reap the benefits? It is quite simple – no one would reap any benefits and the countries would continue to be the laughingstock of the world, as they have been over the past several decades.
We know that this allegiance to the clans and tribes subvert the laws of the lands of the region and it is difficult for each of the countries to sort this out individually and this is why only a regional setting like the Horn of Africa States would be the answer and where quality and not the clan or tribe one belongs to, does not determine the leadership of the region in all fields, politics, economics, industries, sciences, academics and so on. Creating a master treaty or constitution which guides the local laws of each country such as the Maastricht Treaty of Europe would be ideal. Each of the countries would have its own constitution, but it should be in line with the Master Treaty of the Horn of Africa States to be named after the city where it is signed.
In this treaty, there would be an oversight governance structure of all the ministries, the legal systems and even the security infrastructures, of each country, such that the region approaches all foreign outreaches in the form of a block, just as the EU presents itself to others. The Horn of Africa States, despite its current reputation as the land of instability, could lead the rest of Africa if they put their acts together and crossed the clan/tribe allegiances to the regional setting.
This can be achieved through a process, which starts with first recognizing and acknowledging the clan/tribe allegiance problem, as the mother of all the problems of the region at present. The second step in the process is to recognize that democracy is not in the numbers who vote for one group but accepting the art of compromise, without which, everyone becomes an emir, and who then would drive the donkey? The third aspect of democracy is to put the right people in the right place in each of the countries to lead them so that they would serve both the weak and strong, the rich and the poor, the political friend and the political foe and the individual nations and the regional setting, all at the same time.
The choices the region today is limited and very narrow. It is either construction of the individual countries and the regional setting or destruction of both. Wisdom tells us that destruction is not a viable choice and that construction through tolerance and patience, would take the region and the individual nations a long way in healing all the wounds they have acquired though the mistakes of this generation and the old. The region needs to bury the hatchet of hatreds created by the old generation and continued by the present generation, and rebuild each country and the region collectively, in a spirit of co-operation and teamwork.
The region has generally become a victim of circumstances, mostly emanating from the clan/tribe allegiance, which does not reward neither the individual countries nor the regional setting. The region and its member states of the Horn of Africa have pushed back the creative roles, individuals would have played in advancing the cause of each member country and for themselves individually, too. It is high time that the populations of each country recognized themselves as individuals. If only the citizens of the region saw themselves as individuals and refrained from the clan or tribal mindset, they could easily lessen the tensions and stresses they unwittingly created and start building the member countries and collectively the region of the Horn of Africa States.
It is understandable that many would read this as a dream and that the proposition is out of bounds. It actually is a dream but a good dream and opposite to despair and negativism, which they advocate. The latter do not take anyone nowhere or anywhere. Hope is the home of dreams and dreams are what makes things happen. The people of the region would need to live in hope, construct the region and individual members in hope, and work in hope, and always for the better. The regional setting, we propound is certainly better than the current clan/tribe infested mindsets of the region. When one hits a cul-de-sac, one must shift gears and move in another direction. The Horn of Africa region has reached a stage where it truly needs to move in another direction.
It is high time that the people of the Horn of Africa States started to think positively about the region as a region and allow its people and its capital resources to move about freely without the incapacitating borders and fears created, first by the Europeans and enabled by the politicians of old. We know from history that Harar and Zeila were in the same country just about a century and half ago and caravans used to move to and from the two cities to each other. The same was for Tadjourah, Massawa and Assab, and Mogadishu, Berbera, Kismayo, and Barawa, all to interior lands of the Horn of Africa.
Very dark nights are followed by bright daylight. It is how people live their lives. The dilemma of the region is only in the mindset of the people of the region. They can replace these dark days of the region to very bright days ahead should they change their mindsets and think of each other as co-citizens of the region, working and living together, not as enemies as has been advocated by the clan/tribe mindset, but just as neighbors, who need each other and are bound to the same region. It is not their choice that they happen to be in the same region. But then, that is beyond the discussion and scope of this paper.
Taking cue from my banking and business background, let me quote here the reply to a question about the secret of the success of a Chief Executive Officer of a corporation, where he said, “Starve the problems and feed the opportunities.” The people of the Horn of Africa States must starve the problems and feed the opportunities, the same way this Chief Executive Officer advised. We must add the following: Starve the clan/tribe and feed the individual dreams, and hence the nation and the region. History is full of peoples who have risen from the ashes of their dead selves to become great nations. Germany, Japan, and Europe are fitting examples. They were fully destroyed during the Second World War and now look where they are today. Aren’t they at the peak of nations, although the current Ukraine conflict, may pull them back and down, should they not heed?
The Horn of Africa States region is a hardy region, and its people are known for their endurance and ability to survive harsh regimes imposed on them from without and from within. Should they reorganize themselves and their energies, and resourcefulness, they can recreate powerful individual members and a regional setting, the Horn of Africa States. This world of today is one of competition and survival and many have been taking advantage of the region and its members for far too long. It would be good for the people of the region to work hard and rebuild the region and the individual members. This would not be music to the ears of those who were taking advantage of the region or those sons and daughters of the region who were blinded by their senseless clan/tribal belonging and pride as opposed to the nations they live in or the region. It is, nevertheless, time that the citizens of the region revisited themselves to re-evaluate themselves as individual persons and contributed to the survival of the member countries they belong to and the region, in this harsh competition.
No nation or region has advanced forward without having had some murky and messy problems. America did not become great until it went through a bloody civil war and Europe did not become the Europe of today. They shed a lot of the blood of its citizens through some of the bloodiest wars humanity has ever seen. Even today, European blood is being shed. The Horn of Africa States region is just having its own problems, but it must learn from the experiences of its past and from those of others.
Taking a positive attitude towards the civil wars of the region, the ones of Somalia or Ethiopia or the political issues of Djibouti and Eritrea, should be lessons to learn from. Time and energies should not be lost or wasted on things and matters that would not work. The region should start to accept the needs of its population and make them want to be part of a great experiment to create a viable, successful and attractive region not only for its people but for others as well, to also want to join it or live in it. The region offers a beautiful landscape, a beautiful coastal belt and resources worth in the trillions if the right mindsets were in place. It also offers a beautiful people, who at the individual level, are a welcoming and good people to live with and work with. The region has gone through bad moments, and it is time it moved on towards the better. Admitting defeat is not the end of the world. People fall and get up and move on. To admit that each of the members of the region has been a failure so far, is the starting point of a recovery and the region should grab this and move on.
The individual members of the region cannot afford to live in the past and repeat what failed the region in the past – the wrongs that were done by regimes long gone or by this clan or tribe or that and many other silly issues. The regional leadership were generally all at fault. No clan or tribe is superior to another, for it would have shown up in the general landscape of the region. All the villages and towns and so-called cities of the region, seem to be just big refugee camps. They generally do not have waste and rainwater drainages, or piped drinking water, or clean and wide roads or streets. The people of the region generally all appear as hapless poor people who have very little in terms of shelter, food and clothing and almost every year, we hear and see good people of the world calling for help for the hungry and thirsty people of the Horn of Africa States.
If one travels from one corner of the region to another, one will notice that the region is all the same, despite the different clans/tribes who inhabit them and then one must ask oneself, who claims to be superior to another. There is no such thing as superior clans/tribes or inferior ones. They are all poor citizens of the Horn of Africa who have not learned much of how to live in the modern world and who cannot govern themselves because of their pseudo-clan/tribe affiliations. The people of the region have so far failed to govern themselves.
As we noted earlier, the solution for this virus called the clan/tribe, is the regional setting and the individual of the region becoming individualistic. It is the cure of the member states of the region and the region in general. The citizens of the region must see themselves as individuals who are capable of taking independent decisions from one’s clan/tribe. The clan/tribe collective psyche and pride must be destroyed. It is the way of the successful, and not the way of crabs, that would move the region forward. Let us repeat, “Starve the problems and feed the opportunities”.