The Horn of Africa States: The Continuing Challenges – OpEd


If one were travelling across the globe today, one would notice that the world is sick and ailing and wherever one looks, one would find countries in crisis. The Europeans are busy fighting the Russians in a proxy war in Ukraine with the involvement of the United States and Canada and all the countries collectively called the West. The economic front of the West is no longer at ease or as strong as it used to be. These large economies were generally based on exploitation of resources from other parts of the world, which used to be obtained at prices set by the buyers. Manufacturing has changed from the North or the West to Asia, mostly China and many of the Asian countries including India. The West, indeed, has become more of a consumer society much like the rest of the so-called third or fourth world countries.

 Africa continues to face its unending challenges with coups and counter coups and terrorism both religious and mercenaries, and all related to the resources of the continent. The Chinese, the Russians and even the wealthy Arabs of West Asia and of course the West, are all involved in the wars of Africa and its conflicts. These include among others the unsettled Sahelian conflicts including the recent military coups of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and the almost revolutionary change of governance in Senegal, and all directed at removing the French from the region or reducing their influences therein. The DR Congo crises which started with its independence from 1960 still continues and involves multiple parties. It is no doubt a resource-related conflict with multiple interests involved.

The Horn of Africa States region appears to be moving in the direction of the DR Congo with its conflicts possibly related to the region’s geostrategic location, its potential sub-soil wealth and other resources. The same resource-based conflicts have almost destroyed Sudan and South Sudan which appear not to be functional anymore.

In the Asiatic front, the problem of Taiwan, the unending Korean Peninsula conflict, the long overdue Kashmiri Dispute, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the West Asian Crises whose origins date back to the end of the Second World War in 1945, continue unresolved and  challenging. There are, as well, many other conflicts brewing in the Asiatic front not only among major countries but also among the many countries of the continent. The Myanmar crisis, involving not only its governance issues but also the Rohingya and Karen conflicts, the Himalayan border disputes between China and India, and others such as the Afghan unsettled peace matters, all remain challenging and unresolved.

The Latin American drug industry continues to trouble not only North America but also Europe. But it continues to cause mass migration from many of these countries to North America. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and many other countries suffer from the illicit drug business.

The international community is fully aware of all these crises and keeps discussing them in various forums and conferences regularly. The latest such conference was the G7 foreign Ministers’ meeting on April 19th, 2024, in Italy, wherein they reaffirmed their awareness of all these crises and renewed their commitment to upholding the rule of law. 

The Horn of Africa Crisis was one of the issues discussed in the meeting and more specifically the now famous internationally illegal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) instigated by Ethiopia with respect to Somalia, the transitioning of the country’s security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somali National Army,  and the Tigray and other regional conflicts of Ethiopia were discussed. However, the international community presents itself as if they are not involved in all these conflicts when various actors from within the international community could be the source of most troubles. Each member of the international community could easily control the conflict instigators  from within their countries and/or their proxies in other parts of the world causing most of the problems not only in the Horn of Africa States region but also in other parts of the world.

The international community will continue its traditional processes, which would most likely not solve any of the problems of the region. These problems can only be solved by the leaders of the region both ruling and opposition parties, wherein they should not be intimidated by a few dollars for personal enrichment. Such enrichment is meaningless as one cannot use them in comfort all the way to retirement, in a peaceful environment which requires stability and rule of law, issues which could not be possible if the crises which they are part of continue unabated.

It should be the will of the people and their leaders to move in the direction of democratic principles, rule of law, transparency and popular participation in governance. A dialogue of the leaders with their own populations should be locus of all their activities instead of acting on behalf of others from beyond the region, as wiggly dictators with no power to wield on populations which reject them. The leaders should be ashamed of serving the interests of other countries for a few dollars in their own territories and countries instead of their own, which appears to be the case at present in the Horn of Africa States region.

Albert Einstein once said that “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” The famous scientist truly encapsulated the essence of peace and one cannot put it better. Perhaps, the other famous Somali, Wil Wal could be compared when he said, “I have tried hurting men in the worst possible ways but could not find a better way than to call him “brother” to subdue him.” Why do Horn African leaders still believe that they can subdue the warrior Horn African through force, when they know it is almost impossible?

The conflicts of the region and hence its instability is not unique to itself. It must be connected to the other conflicts and crises of the sick world of today not only through the supply chains but also through the world’s arms industries which needs continuous conflicts if they have to survive. It is this industry, which is the elephant in the room in the Horn of Africa States region, which most leaders do not mention, let alone discuss. The Horn of Africa States region remains a sufficiently large market for small arms and light weapons which continue to threaten its stability and peace.   

Perhaps, the leaders of the region fail to understand that injustice is human-made and can be reversed. The buck starts with them as they are the responsible leaders in governance and their actions cause injustice and unfair treatment of others with different ideas and opinions of running their countries. Dialogue and discussion should have been the basis of dealing with the opposition parties to avoid the conflicts that have eaten away the dry and green in the lands of the Horn of Africa States region. The use of force only exasperates situations in the region and helps the arms industries and hence foreign parties, which supply most of the killing machines. It is incredible how the latest killing machines appear in remote parts of the region which have not seen any other modern amenities. It is where the role of leaders becomes necessary that they stop warring and instead work on dialogue and talk. It would not be easy in the beginning but people are not generally stupid. Serious attempts at peace will always be noticed and people will listen.

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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