The Horn Of Africa States: Possibility Of A Fresh Start – OpEd


There was once a man who had a good business and a good life. He was in the transport business and unfortunately for him, he had acquired a vehicle from another person known to him, but forgot to transfer the vehicle in his name. Years later, he remembered to take back the vehicle in his name, but the license-holder refused to transfer the vehicle unless he bought it ‘again’ at a new price. He found himself in a vulnerable position in this transaction.

The owner was incensed and enraged against the man and felt that an injustice was committed against him. He was crazed and started think of how to take revenge on the man. And day and night, his anger grew, and he forgot about anything else, devising one possibility of revenge against the man and then abandoning it for another more damaging to the other…. It took months and he forgot about running his business, which suffered, of course, and his family, which he also neglected until one day he passed by a gathering of people in a square, where a man was speaking to the people, and he started to listen to the man and heard him say these words:

“Think not of revenge for you may suffer the vengeance of others yourself.”

This was a new shaft of light, a new mindset, a new start for the man who only thought of vengeance against that other person over the past long days, nights, and months. He felt that he only caused more trouble for himself and made his business and family suffer more. The new shaft of light made him think positively and concentrate on new constructive processes where thus his business recovered, and his family became ever more successful. Same is the situation for countries and nations. In these days, we see many countries spending all their energies preparing to take revenge on other countries or preparing to take some of their wealth and assets or curtailing their businesses and, indeed, invading them.

Many countries involve themselves in mediocre thinking processes whereby they come up with useless ideas that only make them strive against other countries. These do not add, at the end of the day, any benefits to their countries and people. Wars and fighting only make peoples and countries suffer more on both sides of any conflict. Many African countries keep pushing each other while failing to see that they can live together and cooperate instead of criticizing each other or bargaining against each other with foreign parties that have no interest in either, other than their own. Such is the Horn of Africa countries who share many values, histories and cultures and who can live together and collaborate for the development of the region. But we only see them each at the end of their wits on how to hurt each other, instead!

How unfortunate is the Horn of Africa States and how unfortunate are its populations, which produce most refugees in the world as a result of the conflicts created by its leaders or conflicts engineered from outside the region by those who want to take advantage of the region’s wealth both above soil and sub-soil and/or its geostrategic location!

Most trouble lies on how leaders judge themselves vis a vis their populations with respect to the neighboring countries and their populations. They normally jump on wrong conclusions whenever and whatever the neighboring countries do or plan to do and this only creates more distances between the countries of the region who support always, opposition groups of the leaders of the neighboring governments. It is a vicious cycle that entices one leader against another in a continuous struggle that has not benefited the region or contributed to its development.

Many, indeed, talk incorrectly of established facts and on wrong premises. They always expound their views on matters they know truly little of such as the man who once spoke of the only white lion left in the world in an Indian Zoo, when indeed there were some sixty-nine of them in the world at that time with some twenty-five in India alone. Many of the leaders of the region, indeed, take decisions on incomplete information provided either by ill-informed people or through deliberate intentions of others.

It is perhaps time the leaders of the region revisited the situation of the Horn of Africa States and reworked on new more effective formulae that would lead to better development of the region or at least lessen its burden on others in the world. There is one but one law in nature, which applies to both animate and inanimate objects and that is, there is a price to be paid before anything can be achieved. The region must strive to improve itself in governance, in cooperation, in education, in provision of better health services, in agriculture and in industrial development and in many aspects. 

The Horn of Africa States region needs to revisit its mission before it can wake up again to its past glories and before it can recover from the continuous troubles it finds itself in, all the time. Cooperation and collaboration among the countries of the region, building together an economically integrated region is the only way out for the region. The single state format approach to development where each of the countries believes it can achieve development on its own is no longer a viable option and their leaders know it, but do not act on it. The regional format can always be worked out and negotiated. The issue is why they can’t work together and hence motivate their peoples and populations accordingly instead of inciting them against each other.

There is always the possibility of a new start. What happened in the past should remain in the past and the leaders should look into the future and create a better and more successful environment for the populations of the region. It is how they would enter the history books in a manner and process different from the leaders of the recent past, who are already being forgotten.

The Horn of Africa States, despite being afflicted by conflicts which in turn give rise to large scale displacements and/or emigration, is a region full of possibilities and opportunities.  Should the countries be working together, they would have the support of many other regions of the world to facilitate achievement of regional trade, financial and, indeed, economic integration. Despite the current poverty levels which mark the region, it can produce enough food for itself and for others should the region pay attention to its possibilities. Note it has a large agricultural land mass, a vast marine exploitation zone and substantial underground wealth including oil and gas, geothermal energy, wind energy and solar energy and many other assets. These can only be worked out should there be peace and stability in the region, which the leaders of the region should work on but continually miss.

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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