The Horn Of Africa States: Populations At Risk – OpEd

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The Horn of Africa States region is a vast region of some 3.8 million square kilometers and a marine exclusive economic  zone of some 1 million square kilometers. It houses and accommodates a growing 216 million people of youthful age, most of them (0ver 70%) under thirty years old. It has a large agricultural base, including production of native grains and other grain seeds aside from the large fishing waters the region owns both in the oceans and in the rivers and lakes. The region, if worked well could, therefore, be food self-sufficient as it always was through millennia.

It is not the case, however, and thousands of the region’s population are at risk or on the move, and out of the region simply because the governing infrastructures are obstacles to peaceful life in the region and the five countries from Sudan to Somalia are all involved in wars with rebellious forces be they ethnic or religious. It is a sorry of a region, indeed.

While there are strenuous climatic situations in the region, it does not warrant an extreme hunger and/or a mass exodus as has been happening in the region for many years now to the extent that the populations of the region even risk their lives crossing deserts and seas to move to other destinations.

Unfortunately, many of those destinations are not as green as they appear to be either or as friends and family members who made it make them to be. Many are abused not only in the final destinations but also along the way as they adventure in the true wilderness they travel through, including the immigration processes they must go through.

Many Horn Africans simply return and find peace at home, whether they stayed away for four or five years or even longer periods and it is what those who are still back there and have not yet travelled should take notice. There is nothing better than home.

The Horn of Africa States region is not poor but the leadership of the region both ruling, and opposition make it to be. Either they do not know, or they may be working to the bidding of foreigners and others, who control them. It is unfortunate that the past leaders of the region did not have this kind of character where they sell their souls to the devils and destroy their peoples and countries just for a small amount of money to have a building made of glass in Nairobi or some other East African country. They have no clue that the people of East Africa are laughing at them at heart.

“Let them bring their money to us and employ our youth,” they say. The assets they collect in those foreign countries are the assets of those countries and cannot be removed. They can only sell them, and they will surely be sold at lower than cost in most cases when the going gets tough and this is not far.

The current dips and downs in the relationships is but an indicator of things to come when some other foreign president speaks on behalf of some Horn African countries with other more powerful nations. It is, indeed, a disaster on the way. But are there ears to hear and listen and eyes to see?

There are those who observe that the Horn of Africa States region have some of the highest fertility rates in the globe. There are many things going on in the region whose objectives are not clear. The anti-malaria armies of male mosquitoes released into the wilderness in some communities of the Horn of Africa States region, the sterilization programs through the vaccination processes are but some of the issues which the governments of the region should pay careful attention and scrutinize before exposure to the populations.

The continuing displacement of people from their normal abodes into camps scattered in the region with the purpose of collecting them in these camps and making them dependent on food aid and grants should not be allowed by the governments of the region if they have any interest in the wellbeing of their populations. All assistance should be channeled through the governments, which should redistribute in the destination regions equitably and not pocket them as some officialdom, definitely do currently.

The unnecessary migration is another issue which the populations of the region should themselves be fighting by persuading their youth to stay home. They should make public presentations to what happened to the thousands who appear to have perished in the deserts or in the camps of traffickers or in the seas and that life is always better at home.

It is time, perhaps, that governance was made redundant with people shunning governance and  avoiding being caught misappropriating national assets whether they are for the people or for the offices of the governments. Corruption and criminality is why governance has become a problem in the region and populations have become wild and uncontrollable. In the Horn of the Africa States region, there is this askance, “What would one expect from a family whose father figure has gone mad?”

Poverty in the region exists but it is mostly created by misgovernance and inability of people to tend to their normal chores of farming and animal husbandry, fishing and artisanal works. The region was not industrialist and was never as wealthy as other countries, but it was, indeed, able to feed itself for thousands of years. How come it is not able to feed itself these past forty years? And how come there are those so many NGOs which are distributing hard cash to people who never used money before? They have already caused the disruption of many families in the region, who are kept away from tending to their farms and animals, while waiting for uno pocco di dolari.

When we started the higher education in the region some three decades ago, many were questioning us as to the merit of starting universities and colleges in a country that had collapsed. But we insisted and the current population in many of those parts of the region are as educated as anyone else could be and they can manage themselves better should they put their minds to a project. But they are constantly disturbed by this call for greener pastures in countries that are looking for cheap labor and this affects the region.

It is where the governments of the region are required to lay down proper plans for retaining the people trained in their countries and reward them well for the work, they do to enable them to live properly in their countries. It can be done.

No doubt the region suffers from dramatic climate changes, droughts and flooding, diseases, sometimes new ones, and accompanying food insecurities. There is every year this ominous humanitarian disasters and 2024 is no different. The first page of any message on the Horn of Africa States carries a catastrophe brewing in the region. It has been the case the year before and the year before that, and the years before that, and they do not get tired of calling.

But they could have trained the people on disaster management when they occur, taught them how to grow their food, or fish or work in other income generating activities. It does not happen, however, and the region continues to suffer from the same ills. They include malnutrition, multiple diseases, displacements and collection in cramped camps, which turns the areas around the camps into deserts through crowding, climate shocks and El Nino effects, and misgovernance. The populations of the Horn of Africa States region remains at risk all the time.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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