Horn Of Africa States: Hot Spots Will Remain Hot Despite AU Meetings – OpEd


The 44th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of 14-15 February, 2024 of the African Union will be happening today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Continent’s capital. This will be followed by the 37th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly (Heads of State and Government Session) that is expected to take place from 17 -18 February, 2024. This annual recontre of the African Union is a tradition. They have been doing it for years and they, of course, discuss the continent’s affairs in terms of peace and security, relations with others, development and regional integration processes. But the duration of each of the meetings are always two days although the continent’s list of hot spots and hot issues get ever more longer, and most of them remain as unsolved as the year before.

The boss of the organization. H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, who is the Chairperson of the African Union Commission will have probably opened the first session with charming words of welcoming the delegates and developments over the past year and the new issues and new challenges facing the continent. These developments would include reports on the Africa-USA meeting, the Africa-Europe meetings, the Africa- Saudi Arabia meeting, the Africa-Italy Meeting, the Africa-China Cooperation Forum meeting and the Africa-Russia meeting that all took place last year. He would also touch on the good news that the African Union as an organization has joined the G20, which represents about 85% of Global GDP and 75% of Global trade and houses two thirds of the world’s population. This would be followed by many speeches from many of the delegates and the speeches would be as colorful as the clothes of the delegates, the traditional multi-colored African attire.

Perhaps, the audit report would be different as this would address the real malfunctions of the organization and what has really happened to its administration and finances over the past year. This may include the same traumas of the African Union in the years past, which include among others nepotism, corruption, financial mismanagement, power abuse, and other abuses.

The security issues of the continent will be discussed, and this will, of course include the D.R. Congo, which is a permanent feature in the continent’s problems, as it is the richest and most invaded country in the continent. There would, this year, be discussions of the coups that took place in the Sahel region, and of course, Sudan and South Sudan, two other permanent features in the continent’s problematic countries. Somalia and the fate of the AU ATMIS forces will be discussed and perhaps they would find a way of involving the UN and other bodies to keep them stay in the country in another guise. 

The AU will not discuss the problems of Ethiopia, the host country, which has caused the deaths and injuries of a large number of its population over the past three years. Some say over two million have died either directly or indirectly as a result of the war. If that cannot be a topic of discussion, one may ask oneself, why are they meeting? It is as much a disastrous situation as any other country such as the DR Congo, where no such numbers have been killed in a similar period or for that matter Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

The Addis recontre of the African Union will probably also touch on the Sahrawi story or the Gabon Palace coup or the continuing terrorism contamination in the continent. Probably there would also be reports of the extra-continental activities of some of the members of the AU such as South Africa’s ICJ trial of Israel. This year, the delegates would also probably enjoy the war music songs of the Oromia and Amhara against the host government in the not-too-distant neighborhoods of Addis Ababa. It will be a truly African story of war discussions, climate change problems and how to beg the developed world to address the many catastrophes the continent’s leaders create in the first place.

The African Union will always talk boldly on paper, of course, on many issues involving the continent’s future and its challenges to be forgotten and only to be dusted again next year, wherever they would be meeting then. The continent will continue its lethargic march of survival with many of its youth probably dying during the coming year trying to escape from it, in its deserts, jungles and/or in the oceans and seas enclosing the continent. They would probably be discussing the same problems in their next meeting.

Many of the leaders of the continent know that they should probably not be there or in power, but they still stay on the fear of retributions if they leave the palaces, because of the injustices they commit or committed, and so they keep staying year after year for decades as presidents. They should probably have throned themselves as kings or emperors as Bokassa did in the Central Africa Republic many years ago. Some are dreaming of exactly that, some reports say, and they may be in the halls of the Meeting.

It is an irony that Africa is one of the most endowed of continents, yet it is the poorest of all continents today. Poverty is, indeed, equated with Africa and its leaders remain oblivious to the plight of their people. We wait for another year and see how far it has progressed or regressed! One of the sure things of the continent is that its hot spots will remain hot until the next recontre of the continent.

The continent has been doing the same things the same way, year in year out, and needs to change strategy. Perhaps the better possibility is the move from the single state plans for development to regional reconfigurations in the continent. The ECOWAS region appears to be moving in the right direction although its political network has changed dramatically during the past year with three major coups, in its Sahelian region. The East Africa Community has expanded further into central Africa encompassing Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and the DR Congo and recently into the Horn of Africa, through Somalia, while the SADC group kept prodding on. The continent has moved on and joined not only the G20 but two of its member countries also joined the BRICS Plus namely Ethiopia and Egypt, to make the continent’s members in the new organization three including founding member South Africa.

The Horn of Africa States, which currently appear to be drifting apart could also come back together to create closer knit cooperation and collaboration. The region could include the four actual Horn of Africa States of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti plus Sudan (the SEEDS countries). This would be a more natural configuration as almost the same stock of people lives in that region although they collide and fight each other as if there was no end and mostly for inexplicable reasons other than false narratives created by some of the leaders, most of the times. However, like anything else African, such new formation would depend on the leaders and what they want! Currently the leaders of that region seem to be confused and indecisive in this regard. They forget that no one will come to make things better for them. They should know successful leaders not only lead but also motivate their populations and countries instead of spending their time fighting opposition groups from within and from without. Every leader throughout history has had opposition but great leaders were able to still forge ahead with the development of their countries and regions, without causing more damages to their own peoples.

Typical of the Horn of Africa States region is that most people across the various borders are often the same people on either side of the borders and trade and live together most often informally. Formal state interventions remain static and mostly restrictive, which does not help develop a healthy regional cooperation. Such activities are often marked as contraband and illegal, while they are more legal than anything else. It is only natural that the same family members on either side of the borders should be helping each other. The borders were, indeed, created without their involvement and/or consent. The best the current formal states can do for these people and for the larger populations of the region should be working together and collaborating through formal economic integration policy frameworks.

The leaders of the continent and its various regions should be kinder to themselves and should shy away from repeating the same beautiful speeches once every February of every year without anything tangible to have been created or achieved during the year that passed. Perhaps, they should include in this session that they should let the continent’s various sectors be open to each other and discuss issues among themselves, at least at the regional levels. The bankers should be coming together, and the legal firms and lawyers, the accountants and the accounting industry, the industrialists and the farmers and agricultural experts and the many other segments of the populations, including the political organizations and parties. It is the only way people would come to know each other and travel to each other and labor will move from one country to another through legal and formal processes. The next meeting in 2025 should not be as sterile as the current one going on in Addis Ababa or the previous ones in the past.

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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