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The Horn of Africa States: The Region Can Do Better

June 24, 2024

Dr. Suleiman Walhad
June 24th, 2024

The Horn of Africa States region commands the major waterway, which connects the Indian ocean to the Suez Canal including the chokepoint of Bab El Mandab Straits. It is a troubled region, which neighbors the economically rising West Asian states of the Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the equally troubled countries of Yemen and Sudan.

The region, in addition to its geostrategic location, is also endowed with a large youthful population, a large agricultural base and an equally large blue economic potential. The region is also endowed with a significant sub-soil wealth including oil and gas, uranium and other mineral resources.

The troubles of the region are not the only troubles in the world, and it is not fair to present the Horn of Africa as the only region which is marred by crises. Many other regions of the world have similar problems. The Ukraine, the unsettled Taiwan issue, the Latin American drug stories, the Indo-Pacific turmoil that involve competition of major powers in those oceans are but a few of the troubles of the world that do not involve the Horn of Africa States region.

The interlocking crises of the Horn of Africa States region involve economic, inter-communal and environmental crises, complicated by an international community that pays lip service to the problems of the region. The international community will never solve the problems of the region. It is the onus of the region to solve its own problems and no one else’s.

The economic crisis involves poverty and food insecurity. However, throughout history, the region produced its own foods and, in fact, discovered many food plants such as the teff, the ensette and tamed many animals such as the camel and the donkey. The region provided food to others including the people of Arabia for centuries and it still does despite its poverty when it exports millions of animals on the hoof to that region.

It is not explicable how it does not produce its own foods sufficiently these times? Perhaps the dependency on food aid from other parts may explain this new phenomenon. There seems to be a need for the region  to re-invent itself and work on producing its own foods and refuse to accept food aid from others.

This would certainly need peace and security to allow farmers and others to work in food production  for the region. Here lies the key. The inter-communal and inter-tribal and clan wars only add to the miseries of the region, and it is where the region’s leadership should be working to install peace through fair and square means. Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

If only the communal leaders and the regional state leaders would realize and adopt that motto, many issues would and could be solved with ease. Injustice is the source of the insecurities of the region, which fuel the civil wars and conflicts, including even inter-state conundrums.

The environmental crisis in the region, another catastrophe that affects the region is also partially manmade as the region’s energy seems to being spent on non-productive communal strives and hence ethnic-based political competition for power. Who would have time to address the environmental degradation in process  in the region? Droughts and famines have always affected the region and are a cyclical phenomenon which previous generations dealt with. The current generations apparently seem to be busy and mindful of other  matters that occupies them more than they should. It is where the region’s leadership needs to address.

The three issues of communal crisis, economic crisis and environmental crisis are inter-connected and inter-dependent. They can only be addressed through a collective approach which currently seems to be out of the orbit and beyond the horizon.

Will the Horn of Africa States region always depend on the Europeans or the Americans and more recently the Chinese and others, including the Arabs across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for sustenance? While one must thank those who have come to help, it is illogical for one to become dependent on handouts and begging, when the region is wealthy and needs its people to exploit its resources for sustenance and development. Donors will, one day, get tired of the region’s continued troubles, and may disengage themselves.

The region is a focus of many nations and regions all pursuing their interests. The region’s geostrategic location, its mineral resources, and its large market all attract the powers that be in the world, which only leads the competing powers to cause more hardships for the region, and hence becoming stumbling blocks to the region’s development. These foreign competitions cause and portend political chaos in the region, which leads to more communal strives, hunger and poverty and all the three interlocking crises mentioned heretofore.

The region has the ability and the land and sea space to produce its own food. It only needs its politicians to realize and, theretofore, develop a more equitable society than what it currently has. It is clear that the region can do better. There is a great need for the leaders to embrace more dynamic people-oriented, fair and equitable systems where competency and professionalism are key components and not the tribe, clan and the loyal.


1 Comment

  1. I always expect Brother Dr. Suleiman to stand above the fray and write articles to promote peace, stability and spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood among the countries of The Horn of Africa. But I am still crest-fallen to see him fall victim of elements that peddle animosity and ‘Greater’ this and ‘Greater’ that hallucination in the region in his previous article. I’m gab smacked, least to say. But this article is fine.

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