The Horn Of Africa States: Vigilance Against External Forces – OpEd


The world is full of challenges, which are increasing continuously. Nations are rising while others which were in the top tier seem to be on down-sliding economic slope, which seems to be now causing stirs in international diplomacy, if one should call it, diplomacy. Indeed, it is not diplomacy but demonstration of muscles.

The rise of nations and the decline of others is a natural phenomenon. There is nothing static in life, Indeed, the only constant is said to be change itself.  Emerging powers seem to be putting pressures on the old hegemons of the world and the struggle between these two opposing forces would, no doubt, not bode well for the grass in between – the smaller nations, mostly developing countries or undeveloped, in certain cases.

The Horn of Africa States region, representing some of those smaller nations, fortunately or unfortunately, is in one of those geostrategic locations which the powers in competition both need, and which hence requires from the region a new collective approach on managing the dangers over the horizon, posed by these opposing foreign forces and their allies. The region is already conflicted through the instigation of these external forces that have disturbed its peace, stability, and development for decades now and there seems to be no end sight for these troubles, at least, for the time being. On the contrary, it appears that the push for further escalation, undermining cooperation among nations and groups of nations across the globe, would continue, in the foreseeable future.

Collaboration among countries in a region usually starts with foreign ministers’ meetings, who prepare and open channels of communication among the leaders of countries. The foreign ministers of the Horn of Africa States region currently appear not be motivated in this direction. Over the past year, no meeting of the foreign ministers of the SEED countries was observed barring few bilateral meetings between some members of the region, but not really a collective regional encounter.

Other than the region’s indigenous internal troubles based on its ethnic composition, most of the troubles of the region would appear to have been instigated from outside the region which requires the region to be vigilant against them and specially with respect to the oncoming cold and hot wars among those opposing external forces.

The foreign media that comes to the region has been hyping about the droughts and famines that result from the conflicts these foreign forces instigate in the region, using its disharmonies, instead of the real culprits behind the region’s sorry state and the unfortunate inabilities of its leaders both ruling and opposition to address these matters in earnest.

It is a world where small nations stand little chance. Nevertheless, they must always try to manage the troubles in ways that would lessen and reduce the impact resulting from the elephants fighting over them. Managing these is an art and the region should perhaps learn from its elder statesman, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, who has managed to keep all these forces in the same tiny space of his country at bay and for a long time.

The Foreign Minister of Djibouti, Mohamoud Youssef has done an excellent job and he should, at least, be presenting the better approach to his colleagues in the region through organizing meetings with them in Djibouti or any of the other cities of the region.  The risks involved in the competition among the major powers and even the regional powers around the region are enormous and the Horn of Africa States should be wary to become pawns and proxies for the inevitable clash among these powers.

The countries of the region all desire to have peace and stability away from the long conflicts that have bedeviled it for so long. They do not need to pick up sides to denote the region’s traditional wisdom of staying away from the troubles of others. They have enough of their own in their hands, which they must settle through their own counselling and there is no better than the foreign ministers of the region to put their heads together. They must lay down a new path of cooperation for the region, where they can approach common issues collectively in a cooperative manner.

It is clear that the involvement of foreign parties in the region would not weaken but strengthen and increase. It is how the region’s leadership manages to deal with these foreign parties and forces that would determine the future of the region. Naturally, some would put pressure on the region and the best way to handle these pressures is the collective approach instead of the individual single state approach, which has been the case so far. The single state format has not been successful, and the conflicts of the region have not been abated but continue. There would be the divide and conquer approach of some of the foreign parties and the region must guard against those forces, adroitly and with great adeptness.

The region should note its importance from the many special envoys many countries have sent to the region. They do not send special envoys to the individual countries but to the Horn of Africa States. The many Special Envoys for Horn of Africa States region, include among others Michael Hammer of the United States of America, Annette Weber of the European Union, Xue Bing of the Peoples Republic of China, Sarah Montgomery, of the United Kingdom, Hanna Serwa Tetteh of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization, Olusegun Obasanjo of the African Union and many others.

The Horn of Africa States is always in the news but generally for the wrong reasons – the tribal/clan conflicts, the personal competitions among politicians using their tribal/clan roots, droughts and famines that affect only small segments of the region’s populations which have been forced to move away from their farming and pastoral activities by the terror ideologies imported into the region and the conflicts based on unfounded ethnic schisms. It is perhaps time the region, came into the news with a new message of economic integration, common foreign policies and generally a new institutional regional approach to all its management issues in the rest of the century and beyond.

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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