The Horn Of Africa States: The Proposition (Part VI) – OpEd


We have lived through the proposition through a number of parts and in this part we shall discuss what the HAS project really represents and what makes it different from all the projects of this region over the past two hundred years, which involved not only chaos in the beginning as evidenced by the period of rivalries among the various tribal princes of different localities in the highlands and tribe/clan competitions in the lowlands, but also the European colonialization and liberation thereafter and reversal to old rivalries between the highlands and the lowlands involving major wars such as those of 1964 and 1977 between Ethiopia and Somalia, the liberation struggle of Eritrea from Ethiopia and the almost anarchic civil strives that continue to bedevil parts of the region, mostly Somalia, but also Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, which affect the region negatively.

The region, indeed, ended up in the current format of four countries, the SEED countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, through European machinations and influences and it has become a reality to deal with. The chaos and internal strives in the region have given lee ways and driveways to foreigners who take advantage of its resources as represented mostly by its geostrategic location, and its immense maritime exclusive economic zone, which has made it almost a beehive for all kinds of actors – major powers, regional powers, mercenaries, UN and other international organizations, which use it as a conduit to collect resources for their fat administrations and, indeed, many others.

Climate has not been helpful either and the region saw its share of miseries due to the climate change caused by the actions and inactions of others in distant lands and continues to suffer from it. Many have perished in the region as a result of droughts and famines and at times floods and storms. Imported ideologies at two extremes, the first socialism and communism and the other as represented by their archenemy of religious terrorism, have also caused mayhem in the region and still do.

We shall review it first geographically and what it is not and cannot be and we shall then see what, as a project, it represents.

Geographical Location

The Horn of Africa is a region which consists of the four SEED countries, namely Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. It is the easternmost part of Africa shaped in the form of a rhinoceros horn jutting out into the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Sea (northern Indian Ocean). It is a region which overlooks a geostrategically significant water way as we shall discuss later and is the source of the Blue Nile which provides most fresh water to northeast Africa (Sudan and Egypt). It is a region which the equator also passes through and hence has both northern and southern hemisphere parts. It has deserts, savannahs, equatorial forests, tropical, Mediterranean and temperate climates all at the same time.

What HAS Cannot Be?

HAS cannot be a club of presidents/prime ministers and/or kings as most African regional and continental organizations currently represent themselves. They were all created by meetings of the rulers of governments but were never ratified by the populations of Africa, through referendums, and therefore do not enjoy the approval of the continent’s 1.5 billion people. They exist and are mostly financed by non-African sources and hence serve other interests. One can take as perfect examples the African Union itself, IGAD and others. None of them have generally governance and/or executive powers and decisions are based on consensus, which really, in the African context, remains a pipedream.  Any country can walk out and come back later anytime as Morocco did to the African Union or as Eritrea did to IGAD and as DR Congo is currently threatening, apparently, to do to the EAC although it just joined it recently. It is appealing to the SADC of which it is also a member, evidencing the idiosyncrasies of African regional organizations. If I do not like this one, I can move to the other, seems to be the motive of many countries.

The HAS cannot be like  any of the regional communities of Africa. Most Regional communities of Africa include countries that double dip in at least two or three groupings denoting the lack of seriousness in these organizations with respect to their goals, thus creating overlaps. The African regional groupings include:

  • Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), which consists of Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya and Tunisia.
  • Economic Community of central African States (ECCAS)Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD), which consists of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Libya, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea, Nigeria, Djibouti, Gambia, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Somalia, Tunisia, Benin, Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Comoros, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania.
  • The East Africa Community, which consists of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania. 
  • Economic Community of Central African States which consists of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania.
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which consists of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo.
  • Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which consists of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya.
  • Southern African Development Community (SADC) which consists of Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The fact that all of them constitute different members who are also members of other organizations within the continent says a lot of them  and the HAS region should not be anything similar. It should dedicate itself to the goals and strategies of the organization and the member should not be part of other regional organizations, where loyalties, rules and agreements would not be compromised. It should also be ratified as an institution by the populations of the SEED countries, without which it would only add itself onto the miserable regional organizations of the continent.

What does the HAS Project Entail?

It is in view of these and others that the HAS project has come about. It, indeed, does not please many of the citizens of the region today as it touches on their basic existential roots – the tribe and/or the clan, an organizational infrastructure which has led to great suffering and loss of lives and lovies in the region. There are those who wrongly claim that they created the region and there are those who claim they were wronged by the other tribes and there are those who suffer from pseudo superiorities and/or inferiorities and hence, indeed, insecurities and fear.

The HAS project is to heal all those and represent a framework, based on consensually agreed platforms that have executive and governance powers such as an economically integrated region with institutions designed to handle the different aspects of governance, foreign relations, domestic relations, trade, travel, immigration, healthcare, education, social services, transportation, telecommunication, tourism and others. It would be entirely financed by the member countries through budgetary allocations from their ministries of finance, and would hence not be dependent on others for deliverance of its services, like other African regional organizations.

Many believe that the proposal is meant or designed to merge the four countries. If they can do that, it would be good, and for the better. However, the project is to maintain each country “as is.” They would have a treaty, which would be the basis of the constitutions of each country, although each country would have its constitution amended to suit its peculiarities. It would operate more or less like the European Union, where each country remains as it was before the regional integration, but share and integrate many of their laws, activities, trade and tariffs and, indeed, unify and integrate their foreign relations with respect to others whether it is for diplomacy or trade and indeed global and regional issues.

There would, for instance, be a HAS citizen carrying a Somali passport or a HAS citizen carrying an Ethiopian passport and so on. The boundaries would be the same and would not change but would be crossed with ease as agreed through a regional framework. A visa given to a non-regional party would have access to all the countries of the region on an agreed framework. Indeed, this would ease travel and tourism in the region, which would generate substantial revenues for the region. Note it owns both highlands, and lowlands, seas and rivers, lakes and savannahs, deserts and depressions, all attractive to many a tourist.

The HAS project is to promote the region not as its precariously or barely surviving single countries but as a thriving region which has much to offer not only to the tourist as noted above but also to investors and other countries and regions that would like to trade with it. Note the region owns substantial resources, which now finally include sufficient energy as provided by the GERD, and where those who want to establish their businesses in the region or simply come as tourists would be able to enjoy the amenities of modern technologies. This would, indeed, raise the profile of the region to heights it never dreamed of before.

The HAS project would involve building many ports on the nearly 4,700 km long coast of the region and its numerous islands. Note the region currently faces an uphill struggle with respect to development. Building ports and airports in the region would add greatly to the region’s development. The ports would have to be accessed through roads and rail and this would improve connectivity between the highlands and the lowlands and the savannahs and the deserts of the region. Communication and ease of travel, transport of goods, and connectivity among the various parts of the region would all improve. Here there would be new relationships among the populations of the region which were kept apart in the past and the HAS project would hence forth forge a different more profitable path for the region.

The region needs to move away from its traditional thinking process from the single state format to a regional view of things. This would enhance not only the region’s productivity but its ways of handling issues that bedeviled single countries in the past. The single countries would now have sister countries for support when unexpected troubles arise. It is where the sharing of costs of major projects would also come in, as the region’s development becomes a goal for each of the member countries and the sharing of burdens according to capacities becomes important, if one country is unable to fend for itself.

The HAS project involves creation of new regional institutions, that would take advantage of the main features of the region as represented by the longest coast of Africa of some 4,700 km, an area of about 1.9 million square kilometers, a youthful population of some 157 million, the Great Rift Valley, the Source of the Blue Nile, high mountain ranges and plateaus, mostly above 3,000 meters, the Danakil Depression and the starting point of a future ocean, a diverse fauna and flora and, indeed, a geostrategic world-centered location overlooking and commanding one of the busiest waterways in the world – The Suez Canal/Red Sea/Bab El Mandab/Gulf of Aden/Somali Sea (northern Indian ocean) route. 

The two major economic powers of the world, the United States of America and China are, competing in the region and more so, since the arrival of China in the region with its naval base, the first of its kind outside China. Smaller countries such as those of the Arab world are also trying to find their way into the region where the two elephants are facing each other, much more like hyenas that dance around a lion’s feast. Currently there are too much of pressures on the single states of the region but once a regional block is formed these pressures would naturally drop and be eased. There would be more of negotiations for win-win agreements and contracts rather than the lobsided agreements which they are currently forced to sign.

The HAS project represents a forward-thinking process, where old problems are to be seen through new lenses where discussions and decisions would be made on common interests, face off common threats and indeed, bring forth common solutions for the emerging problems of the emerging multipolar world with respect to the region.

Many countries have, indeed, taken advantage of the single countries of the region and more specifically countries like Somalia which has suffered much from the collapse of the state governance infrastructure. They have even tried to expand the chaos to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. All the countries of the HAS region have been subjected by multiple nefarious forces to  a lot of stress and in particular with respect to the limited resources of the individual countries at present.

The HAS collective would give better opportunities to address collectively the diverse trade, development, political, economic and social issues of the region. It would be a conduit to manage not only the security matters of the region but also its  relations with other regions and blocks. The region would develop the many ports of the region and add on more. The ports of Massawa, Assab, Djibouti, Zeila, Berbera, Las Qoray, Bossaso,  Gara’ad,  Mogadishu, Marka, Barawe, Kismayo and many others would all rise from the ashes like phoenixes. They would definitely not all be of the same size, but they would offer port services, where currently they are mostly idle, underdeveloped, and unexploited. There would be roads and rail leading to and from the ports into the hinterlands and further into the interior of Africa. These would represent development and growth of the economies of the member countries of the region.

The HAS project would afford for the region a heavier weight against wealthier countries including the Arabs on the other side of the major Suez canal/Red Sea/Bab El Mandab/Gulf of Aden/Somali Sea waterway when it comes to discussions involving the shipping route and/or its usage. It will replace the IGAD institution which does not enjoy a governance framework nor a stable financial resource. It indeed is an NGO financed by non-regional parties, mostly Europeans, and cannot, therefore, represent the true interests of the region in any forum. The HAS project would entail prevention of interferences from non-regional parties and mostly the GCC countries and Egypt which have played havoc on the region since the collapse of the strong states of the region in the seventies of the last century. It would be a new chapter for the region which would reduce problems caused by interferences from others.


The HAS project aims to create a regional block that aims to help strengthen mutual confidence among the member states of the region which had been at each others’ throats at times in the past. Accordingly, it would maintain peace and security , which was due to many malevolent forces that have come to the region in the past four decades. It would not only prepare the region for investments, as peace is restored, but also work on enhancing economic growth, social development and promote collective response to regional and international issues, that may have repercussions on it, and others as well. The Region would cultivate common positions on foreign policy issues and cooperate in the fields of education, science, healthcare, and other social issues and culture. 

The Has project represents the creation of a new thought process and a new mindset to move the region forward. The new mindset and thinking process would, indeed, restore peace and security to the region, an objective which it has failed to achieve over the past two hundred years. It would provide freedom for the population of the region, where they can pursue their inherent abilities and work within the whole region, unhindered and unabused. It would, indeed, be a major achievement of the region, which would put it on the map again, but this time on a more positive note.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

One thought on “The Horn Of Africa States: The Proposition (Part VI) – OpEd

  • August 3, 2023 at 3:11 pm

    All Colleague,
    Distorting the history of the reality on the ground is the hallmark of African elites to gain prestige and recognition. Two points made me to comment in this article. First, he undermined the struggle of Western Somali Liberation that routed the Ethiopian soldiers and made Horn of Africa the theater of geopolitics competition of US and Russia. It was the writer ‘s boss who involved in the war between Ethiopian soldiers and WSLF so as to extrapolate its internal crisis to Ethiopia. Second, he is always made to belief Somalia is not a failed state and undermined the most peaceful country Somaliland that he was born in it. Western world including this newspaper are pushing the concept of Eurocentrism ideology of nation state that universalized in order to exploit the resources of African people. How on earth that Zaire did not have seen the light of peace in the last sixty years, the simple answer is the cobalt and other materials that Western world exploited.
    Moreover, the geopolitics of Horn of Africa is grounded on the notion of West versus the East , but the restoration of true African institution and governance that exemplified before the arrival of Western world in Africa. A glaring example is that Somaliland utilizing the pastoral democracy instead of nation state aka predatory elites that do not match with the reality on the ground. Africa has suffer for years to implement a wrong institution that they inherited from Western. The writer should open widely his eyes and look the history making of new world order that is ushering peace, democracy and rule of law .


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