The Horn Of Africa States: The BRICS Story – OpEd


Now that the BRICS’ 15th Summit has started in South Africa and the world is holding its breath as to what the outcome of this long-awaited meet is, one should always ask oneself what it holds for the Horn of Africa States region and where the region stands in this evolving world. 

While located in a dynamic and strategic location that is used by the world’s great and regional powers, it is unfortunate that the region does not have any effect or say as to what happens in the BRIC’s meets for its destiny seems to be in the hands of others as the sons and daughters of the region appear to be more engrossed in their own mindless and senseless internal strives. Perhaps, this destiny of internal conflicts and quarrels is designed by those forces that take advantage of the resources of the region, while the leadership of the region is kept busy pushing off the pressures of political oppositions carrying their banners that it is my turn to rob the already broken backs of the region’s citizenry.

In the past, it was always the ill-defined borders that gave rise to the disputes of the region. Today, however, it is the internal tribal issues of the region and the ethnic-based nature of political competition, which does not leave even some green leaves for the population of the region to chew on as food. No wonder, it is in the news all the time for hunger and starvation while its clever politicians appear to be fighting over crumbs and leftovers of the developed and even some developing countries.

It would have been a better idea for the leaders of the region to organize meetings among themselves instead of being cocooned in their own nests waiting for instructions from others to tell them how to deal with their ethnic-based oppositions. Perhaps they should be sitting with their oppositions and laying bare whatever they have on the high pedestals – namely just trouble and greying and growing old in trying to solve unsolvable problems, for the tribe and ethnicity cannot be erased. Why should they not keep the opposition in close quarters and seek their advice as to what can be done to lessen the burdens of governance?

Wars and terror groups, environmental degradation, and indeed, mercenaries sent to the region only cause more turmoil and displacements in the region and hence inabilities on the part of the region’s leadership to think in peace on ways of developing the region. It is perhaps then that the leadership of the region could think of the BRICS, the G7 and G20, and other economic congregations that occur around the globe from time to time. 

The nation-state model developed by Europeans in the region has been a pain in the region and caused a lot of harm and disharmony over the first three decades after the independence of the region from European colonialism. But before leaving they implanted their traditional policies of divide and rule where the regions’ populations found themselves facing an even deadlier enemy from within – the tribal/clan competition for power. This has kept the region busy on itself until today.

Perhaps a regional formation in the form of an integrated economic infrastructure where people, goods, and services can move from one part of the region to another would be a better solution, while still maintaining the false borders that separate the region’s population from one another. The traditional highlands and lowlands cooperation and exchange of goods and services could be reinstated. This would allow the creation of jobs all over the region and keep the youthful population from killing each other.

This would allow the region’s leadership to gauge on their own the merits and disadvantages of BRICS and similar institutions. Trade, external relations, domestic politics, and, indeed, any type of relations with others depends on the tranquility, stability, and confidence of keeping one’s end of any bargain. It is time the region leadership revisited its own turf and carried out corrective steps that allow others to come forward to the region with mutually useful propositions.

The Horn of Africa States region needs to create an environment where countries that need its resources are fully informed that the old game of internal conflicts and/or intra-state conflicts are of the past. The region should be working together for the economic and industrial development of the region. The region should not be haunted by the conflicts of the past. They should, indeed, leave the past to the past and forge a new relationship that is beneficial to the growing youthful population of the region. People-to-people communication should be encouraged and not discouraged by shells from the past. There should be cooperation in education, healthcare services, and all institutions that would help forge new relations in the region.

A meeting of BRICS has, therefore, no meaning for the region, although Ethiopia was reported to have applied or hinted at joining it. BRICS is for nations that have at least some degree of control over the destiny of their countries. It is not definitely for countries that are struggling to keep their countries from splintering into parts. Would any of the countries of HAS be able to fulfill the conditions of joining BRICS? That is a question, that is difficult to answer, noting the region’s current situation.

What would be better for the region is to work together and set out an infrastructure that enables each country to remain “As Is” and develop together through concerted efforts using the resources of the region – its hydropower, its maritime resources, its minerals, and its youthful human capital. This is, for the time being, the story of BRICS and the Horn of Africa States.

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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