The Horn Of Africa States: Why HAS Is Different From EAC – OpEd


Both the HAS region and the EAC are located on the eastern side of Africa along with other countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius, Comoros Islands, Sudan, and Egypt. The HAS region is the easternmost region of the continent and comprises the rhinoceros-horn-shaped SEED countries, namely Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, while the EAC, despite the name consists of the East African countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Central African countries of South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and DR Congo. The EAC is thus more of a central African region than an east African region looking at the map of Africa where geographically it is located.

Now having noted this geographical placement of the two regions we must explore what other differences separate them, as many ask themselves or try to explain why they are different. First, we must look at the history of the two regions. The HAS region enjoys a longer and more ancient history than the EAC for its existence in recorded history goes back millennia, while the EAC was more of a creation of European colonialism, although it had some influence on mapping and current borders of even the HAS region. The HAS historical influences involved not only the African continent, where they had gold mines in Mozambique, and the countries in the interior such as South Sudan and even Sudan and the other parts of the East Africa region but also beyond the African continent in regions like the Arabian Peninsula, India, and South Asia. The HAS region traded for thousands of years ago with empires like those of Persia, the Hellenic, and the Roman Empires, Ancient Egypt, and Arabia Felix.

 All three major monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in the order in which they came all sought refuge in the HAS region from early on and spread and/or stayed there since then while the EAC region had only access to these religions at later periods, thus marking the spiritual differences between the two regions.

The populations of the two regions have also major differences, although they both reside in the African continent. The EAC is populated by Bantu-speaking people, while the HAS region is inhabited by Afro-Asiatic-speaking peoples. The HAS region is home to Cushitic and Semitic-speaking peoples, while the EAC is home to Swahili-speaking peoples. This presents a huge cultural difference between the two regions. They can perhaps cooperate as regions but not as individual countries as there is a gap in their outlook on life and love and this perhaps explains why the HAS region appears more violent as it does not accept foreigners dictating their lives.

The HAS region has been assaulted by foreigners for centuries and this assault continues, but the region has stood its ground preferring to suffer instead of being robbed and taken for a ride. It explains why the wealth of the EAC region, despite appearances, remains in the hands of non-regional parties today, and hence seems to be developing when the region’s citizenry is deprived of their resources. This is contrary to the HAS region, which continues to maintain its wealth under its sub-soil or above its soil or in its seas, despite some maritime thefts.

The EAC is an existing organization, that has been functioning since 1999, but still has many internal problems including trade barriers that should have been removed some time ago, poverty, and inequality despite owning some of the richest lands, rivers, lakes, and forests in the world. The HAS region does not yet have a formal organization, although discussions in this regard started some five years ago but got stalled. Although the region is equally rich, man-made poverty, and of course clan/tribal-related inequalities mar the region. Both regions have this tribal/ethnic virus, but it is more acute in the Horn of Africa states, although the EAC does have its own major inter-state problems. A major genocide, killing nearly a million people, occurred in the EAC region and there is no guarantee this would not be repeated.

Generally, African countries have weak governance infrastructures left behind mostly by European colonizer countries. Africans have not yet improved on this matter and each country’s citizens are mostly at each other’s throats. This is part of the colonial legacy, where different peoples were lumped together inside territories for their influences as opposed to other European countries. None of the countries of Africa has been formed out of the free will of their people. It is one of the major obstacles to smooth and democratic governance in the continent. Neither the EAC nor the HAS region is free of the weak governance infrastructure. Both the EAC and the HAS region share this legacy although foreign influences are more in the EAC region than the HAS region.

As the two regions have differing populations, the HAS region member countries would not be able to fit into the EAC region as members and the reverse is true. It would thus be advisable that each of the member countries do not allow members of the other to join their organization to enable a smooth functioning of each region separately. The two regions can, if and when they are ready, investigate how they can cooperate in various fields in the future, but currently, each region should develop separately.

Should the EAC’s current expansion process continue and accept, for instance, countries like Somalia, which does not even have a constitution, it would lead the region to inefficiencies, internal regional conflicts, passageways for alien and unwanted terror groups to the region, distorted governance institutions which would, most probably be tilted toward serving some countries as opposed to others, unequal sharing of governance and hence more difficulties and challenges than it bargained for. The EAC must remember that it cannot just invite each neighboring African country to join it. It does not make sense when insensible processes are put in place, which lack a genuine need for such invitations.

Members of the two regions have different outlooks on life and would not be starting from the same viewpoint on many issues including sociocultural matters, political issues, inequalities among the countries when it comes to developmental levels, inequalities of security levels for there are countries where there are still major internal rifts based on ethnic-based political matters.

Dreams of perceived benefits by a member country of a region that advantages would outweigh any disadvantages are usually proven false as the UK’s entry into the European Union and its exit later with great difficulties amply demonstrated.  As the old English proverb noted it is better to think hard before one leaps into an unknown abyss. 

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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