The Horn of Africa States Whispers – OpEd


The Competition for Scarce resources

The North and the South and now the West and the East – it is always “blocks” competing over the scarce resources of earth. We grew up with the North – South dialogues, the North representing the manufacturing countries and the South representing the primary product producers and the cycle has shifted over the past thirty odd years with the North becoming only a consuming market and the East (originally part of the South) becoming the manufacturing base and in-between remaining the primary producers and consumers.

There is nothing wrong with directions or where one is located. It is the perceptions that people make and attach to them, and the thought processes implanted into their psyches that is important, as if one is out to annihilate the other and it has been always this fear that drive nations against one another. In the process they drag along other nations in this “do or die” unnecessary competitions, for people are perfectly capable of living together, should they wish to do so.

Humanity has been making mistakes one after the other for always and it does not seem that they have learned from these repeated mistakes or at least not as much as, they should have, for they continue the competition along the same lines that cause great harm to others. Religiosity, ethnicity, ideology, nation states, blocks of nations, etc.…, etc.…. have been used, one way or the other in some of the great competitions, which gave rise to wars, which in turn destroyed many a nation.

The current stand-off between the Russians and the West or the West and the Chinese are not different from the old competitions for the scarce resources of the earth instead of the expressed perceived security threats. Our humble reading on the whole matter of this latest flare up in Ukraine, is the perceived loss by Ukraine of potential income from the Russian gas that is to be delivered to Europe through the North Stream pipeline nearing completion, instead of the pipeline infrastructure that transits through its territory. They could negotiate better terms and not present themselves as potential blockers of the products from its traditional markets, which pass through its terrain and this could always be worked out, if there are ears to hear. The Russians could also avoid being so overbearing with too much muscle. And the Chinese story is not different. It is the Island of Taiwan, which is inhabited by Chinese. If the bigger brother wants to have their younger one within the fold of the family, why do other nations interfere in their family affairs. They could negotiate and come up, with terms acceptable to all parties.

The Horn of Africa States – Neutral?

And here is why the Horn of Africa States and others are drawn into conflicts that are far away from the region. The location of the region, straddling one of the most important sea lanes and choke points, makes it a target for the competing nations to have footholds in the region and in this respect, exploit the local differences and turn them into conflicts that adversely affect the already poor population of the region.

It is why we propose the construction of the Horn of Africa States as one unit or block so as not to give pretexts to others to intervene in the region. As one setting, the region can and should stay neutral from the conflicts of others, to allow the population of the region, enjoy some respite from wars and conflicts, which have marred this region, because of other peoples’ quarrels over the past hundred odd years – the Suez Canal opening and the competition among the Europeans at the time – the French, the Italians, and the British, the First and Second World wars, the Warsaw Pact and NATO cold war, and so on. It has not been easy for the region and its populations, already poor, in their own local environments, who had to fight each other, using the many pretexts that can be easily flared up by any unscrupulous party at any time, including the unification of the Somali people, the clan wars of the Somali, the Tigrayan/Amhara competition and hence continuous wars to dominate others in the region, the Oromo struggles to have a say in the matters of the region and many other local issues.

This, indeed, is not good for the region and it needs to learn that it should stay away from other peoples’ troubles. Uniting in one set, instead of the various subsets such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and so on, would be one way to guide them to stay neutral. At the end of the tunnel, there is light after all when nations, stop from taking revenge on each other.

Revenge is one of the curses of life, for it makes people forget that they can forgive and mind and manage their lives better instead of spending their energies on ways of taking revenge on perceived enemies. Enemies are indeed a creation of the devil in all people, and we should work hard against such perceptions of enemies lurking around the corner.

The story of the Horn of Africa States is more like that of the Wright brothers, Orville, and Wilbur, when they became the first human beings to pilot and fly a machine, which was heavier than air. Remember they were just bicycle makers from Ohio. When they were working on the project, they made no attempt to publicize it. When they flew the machine first, they stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered some 120 feet. This was a sensational news at the time. They were unknown and the world around them could not just take the achievement with any seriousness. When airplanes were used during the Second World War, Orville Wright, who was still alive, was asked if they thought that their invention would be used for death and destruction, he noted that on that day at Kitty Hawk, “We thought only of getting off the ground.”

The Horn of Africa States Project seems to be out of place at the moment. Who knows, what would happen in the not-too-distant future. This is only a whisper at present to find an equilibrium in a region that has known no peace or tranquility for quite some time.

*DrWalhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at

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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