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The Intergovernmental Authority For Development (IGAD): A Failed NGO To Be Replaced By Horn Of Africa States – Analysis


What is IGAD in the First Place?

The Intergovernmental Authority for Development (“IGAD”) was made on the back of the original Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Desertification (“IGADD”), in 1996. The original IGADD was created ten years earlier in 1986 to combat the recurring droughts and famines that ravage the Horn of Africa region, noting that the region depends on an agro-pasoral-maritime economy, where a vast majority are either subsistence farmers or pastoralists who roam about the vast territory of the region or fishermen in its vast water surfaces. The region was just coming out of the 1984/85 apocalyptic drought and famine, which killed millions of both people and animals, causing huge internal displacement of people (Woodward, 2004:  472; El-Affendi, 2001). IGADD was created to manage the common problem of the region through collective actions and programs, and its headquarters was selected to be in Djibouti, taking into consideration the huge mistrust among all the other main member countries of the region (Somalia, Ethiopia and to some extent Kenya) and Djibouti’s new supposed neutrality in a region that was mostly at each others’ throats. Eritrea and South Sudan were still struggling through an uphill battle to attain independent status.


It was, indeed, an NGO – a nongovernmental body, although its structure involved government officials of the constituting countries. The six countries, which formed IGADD were Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti. The institution, although, it was formed by the member countries, was financed from the outside by international organizations and other countries and in effect turned out to be just another NGO, which like all other NGOs was busy only securing the salaries of the staff of the organization and its huge paperwork, with few projects ever implemented. NGOs are also reported to be involved in other nefarious activities, but this is not the subject of this piece.

In the meanwhile, the droughts and famines continued since the countries of the region remained to be involved in the warring business against each other and or warring within themselves internally, with their own opposition groups. There was no time to do any other activity to alleviate the miseries of the people for which the institution was created to combat. IGADD, became a club of the head of states of the region, who were not at ease with each other, in the first place. Intense competition among themselves for the wrong reasons, was one of the major factors that contributed to its failure.

It did not have an autonomous decision-making authority, nor was it a platform to create a good rapport among the leaders of the region and therefore, the mistrust among the leaders of the organization made it miserable and non-functional. The collapse of the Somali state in 1991 and the emergence of the TPLF as the major player in the politics of Ethiopia and of the region prompted a transformation of IGADD to enable it interfere in the affairs of the member countries directly by one or more of its members, along with the “friends” of the region, who were providing most of the finances of the organization from the beginning, although it was quite clear that the “friends” were only serving themselves. The funds, meager as they were, that they were paying to IGADD and its child the “IGAD” was the cost of assuring themselves of their interests. The new IGAD was formed in 1996 and like its predecessor, the IGAD, failed to do the job for which it was designed.

Failures of IGAD

The failures of IGAD, like its predecessor can be listed, in the main, as follows:

  1. It is a club of presidents, ministers and the supporting financiers – more like a sports club than a genuine developmental organization.
  2. The trust among the member states remains minimal. Some members, like the pigs and sheep in George Orwell’s farm, seem to be more equal than others, thus laying down the groundwork for failure of the institution.
  3. It does not own executive or autonomous decision-making powers and hence reverts back to its masters for serious matters amd the masters include the financiers. It is not a genuine regional organization.
  4. It relies on foreign financing, which defeats its raison d’etre, to be an Indigenous regional organization. Its very existence depends on the funding it receives from non-member parties and in effect it is not self-reliant or self-governing. It must abide by some rules laid out by the funding parties.
  5. Some members only see it as a security organ to use it on other weaker members, according to their shortsightedness. IGAD which was organized to work in the development of the region, thus limited its own horizons to security, funding mercenaries and similar folk.
  6. It does not have any instruments to enforce regional agreements or even sanction member states. It is used only by a limited number of countries for their own ends and mainly in the security arena, without consultation or sanctioning by all members. It does not own a legislative arm to lay down the ground rules nor does it have the legal infrastructure to manage disputes among the members nor the means to enforce its rules.
  7. It does not have any instruments to salvage or assist any member that may fail. IGAD’s role on Somalia and South Sudan at their times of need was dismal and is on the record and evidences the fact that it is not, indeed, a useful organization.

There are so many other factors that have propelled IGAD and its predecessor IGADD to fail and the above should suffice as some of the main factors. The organization’s original objective was ill-defined, and its activities were ill-defined and there was no constitution, where members could have a fallback to, when there was need. It could never become a regional organization, unless it was completely revamped and a new structure, after careful and ample consideration, was put in place.


The Horn of Africa States

The revamping IGAD should be renamed the Horn of Africa States (“HAS”) as we proposed earlier under completely new premises, where the members agree under a new constitution, which is internationally acceptable, to create a partnership, although they would exist as their individual countries, much like the European Union. The constitution would need to be negotiated and put as a referendum to the populations of each of the component countries. HAS like the European Union should be financed by the member countries. How this would be done would be explored and negotiated, but I would say, each country should contribute a certain percentage of its budget for the running of the organization. Such budgetary allocation should be transferred to HAS at least one month before the expiry of each budgetary year.

Defining the budgetary year, the various departments of the organization (legal, economic, financial, industrial, etc.), would be all negotiated and a truly effective organization with rewards and penalties, allowance for new members and processes of exiting from membership would all have to be worked out. It should truly be an organization that promotes regional co-operation and integration, which helps the region negotiate better terms with other blocks in terms of trade, scholarship, science and other relationships. 

The Horn of Africa States, unlike IGAD should start with the four countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. IGAD did include countries like Kenya, Sudan Uganda and South Sudan, which in numbers is exactly equal to the HAS members we propose and the reason, we have removed those countries from the new entity is that they belong to other regional blocks already, with whom they are tied to at the hip, at present. Should they decide to join at a later stage, they should not be rejected after accepting the constitution of the new entity. No overlapping interests should be allowed

The Horn of Africa States region is a unique region, whose populations can get long whence, they decide to forgo the old misgivings and old prejudices. They also enjoy similar environments, highlands, savannahs, arid and semi-arid regions and agro-pastoral-maritime economies. The region enjoys both risk takers and administrators, who can pull it cautiously forward into the future, for they would be balancing each other.

HAS will not be an impotent organization like IGAD for it should fund and staff itself through its members and would henceforth propel the region to a better place than the current confusing directionless situation it finds itself.

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

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

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

3 thoughts on “The Intergovernmental Authority For Development (IGAD): A Failed NGO To Be Replaced By Horn Of Africa States – Analysis

  • February 8, 2022 at 6:33 am

    Another garbage institution. Only demoratic states could form a functioning shared organization. A disparate states autocratic and non demoratic entities could never share anything .Afwerke and Abey and Geelle would never never be party to such organization.,dump this stupid idea now

  • February 8, 2022 at 1:39 pm


  • February 8, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    Wonderful idea
    May God help HAS


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