The Horn Of Africa States: Battling Through Fire And Water To Achieve Peace – OpEd


The Horn of Africa States has been battling over the past decades with itself either through internecine intra-state wars or through inter-state wars between some of its members. It is either this or that and its has earned many names in the media – the most conflicted region, the hungriest region, the producer of most refugees across the globe and so on with other equally derogatory names.

But it appears this is all true. There has been wars and wars of different types. Why is it not able to change its lot to being successful. It certainly has a large population, mostly of youthful age of under 30 and it has many other assets such as a vast agricultural land, a vast animal population and a vast marine life with a coastal belt as long as some 4,700 km and an extremely geostrategic location. It is the source of many rivers and of course, it has lakes and receives enough rains to produce these rivers, some of which are mighty like the Blue Nile.

We have been writing on this region for quite some time now and our readers know most of what I am saying. They could be just students or other seekers of knowledge within the region or beyond it. They could also be its politicians or leaders and they could be just the curious. Curiosity never killed a cat; did they not say! We have discussed its drawdowns and its successes, and we have discussed its wealth and other assets in many different aspects. But we just notice that whenever we feel something good was going to happen, the region shocks us again with one of its idiosyncrasies – a new problem just simply to disappoint us. Maybe!

And whenever we feel an occurrence was the worst and nothing worse could happen, the region surprises again with even a worse event. Over the past month we discussed and rediscussed the MoU that was signed earlier this year, which has not only shocked the region but the international community as well. The region still seems to be picking bones with each other.

Ethiopia just fingered Somalia’s territorial integrity through signing an illegal MoU with one of the regions of Somalia, ignoring a key international rule, on whose respect the world order of today rests – the sanctity of the borders of each member country of the United Nations, irrespective of the internal troubles of a country. This is especially more so for African countries whose borders were curved out to European choices and not to the will of the citizens of each African country. Without those rules, we would not have countries like Nigeria or DR Congo or Tanzania or Chad or for that matter Ethiopia, the largest country of the Horn of Africa States region.

But we must prod on and keep calling for the establishment of a Horn of Africa States region that is economically integrated and whose countries and people, for once, leave behind to the dust of history, its wars and conflicts to earn a different name such as the thriving Horn African region, the growing Horn African economy, and so on. Perhaps we should look back into one of Dale Carnegie remarks where he said, “The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence; and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool.” It is our hope the region’s leaders will take cue from this. Many who succeed in life go through trials and tribulations before they, indeed, reach successes and savor the fruits of their toils.

Profiting from one’s losses is certainly worth something for individuals or groups or even nations and groups of nations such as the Horn of Africa States, whose welfare is currently at stake. The region cannot keep drifting apart but should be getting closer to each other and the onus lies on its leaders who must carry the mantle. Populations generally follow their leaders. Success results from good decisions that are consistent and do not involve constant wavering and changing of mind and attention to even minor details. It is our hope the Horn of Africa States, which is currently hovering over the brink of an abyss will pull back and come to its senses. Pulling back from the MoU, which caused the current headaches of the region would not necessarily be a loss but a gainer for the region, which needs to work together and succeed together.

The region must battle through fire and water and whatever it takes to achieve its success. It is only then that the region would be able to reap the benefits of the large landmass and its vast marine exclusive economic zone and its growing large youthful population and the many resources under its sub-soils both under the seas and ground.

In disunity, as is the case now in the region, there would only be losses and the enemies of the region, which vowed to take over the Horn of Africa region or stunt its development, will thrive and enjoy. The region cannot be busy on itself all the time. Fighting one’s neighbors and friends only makes the region its own worst enemy. It only feeds the enemies.

No one succeeds if one panics in the face of danger as is probably the case of the two leaders of Somalia and Ethiopia presently. Neither has expected the situation between the two countries to turn into the currently unpredictable situation it is. Perhaps, we should recall Napolean Buonaparte when he escaped the Elba prison in his first term as prisoner and he had to confront a French army of some 20,000 with a few loyal soldiers. Coming face to face with this large army, Napolean Buonaparte did not panic but moved forward and opened the buttons of his shirt baring his chest. Most of the soldiers facing him served under him under his first term as Emperor of France. Standing in front of them with his bare chest he shouted, “Which one of you is willing to fire at the naked chest of his father?” The battlefield roared with one chorus: “No one!” Most of the soldiers on the other side moved to his side and joined his few loyalists and thus Napolean Buonaparte once again became the Emperor of France. Should he have attempted to force his way through that massive army, he would surely have been slaughtered.

The region needs to calm down and work out a better future for itself through a better economic integration, a better security integration and eventually political integration. It is not an easy trail and the region, and its leaders should battle through to the ultimate goal of achieving a more peaceful and workable region that is good for itself and the world. Everyone has his Achilles’ heel. The disruptive forces in the region surely have theirs and it is up to the leaders of the region to find them and ruthlessly exploit those weaknesses. That weakness, in our view, lies in the strength of the region working together.

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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