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EurAsiaReview.com: The Horn Of Africa States: Is The Road Really Blocked? – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Saturday, 27 January 2024

By Dr. Suleiman Walhad

January 24, 2024

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a Muslim scholar on Islamic Ethics for the success of life, once quoted a story with respect to a road under repairs, with a notice bearing the words “Road Closed” put up to warn unwary travelers. A “Road Closed” sign does not really mean that the path to one’s destination is barred. There are always other ways to reach one’s destination. It just needs looking for another way or by-way to find them, sometimes zigzagging through narrow alleyways or lanes. It may just take longer than originally anticipated. 

Life’s journeys are very much similar to this and the Horn of Africa States which hit some snack recently, may have to look for another detour with respect to the ultimate destination of creating a regional block that works together instead of warring with itself as seems to be the case these days, where the two largest countries appear to be at each other’s throat, started by Ethiopia’s ambition to break through to a sea outlet across Somalia through a cunning MoU signed with a region of the country, unauthorized by the Federal Government of Somalia. It may appear difficult to proceed with the formation of a regional Horn of Africa States block today, but there is always a way to go around a block or an obstacle to achieve the unity and sanctity of the region without shedding more blood. 

The first is perhaps to realize that the very Horn of Africa is a Somali Peninsula. Somalis inhabit the largest portion of the region with a size of about 1.1 million square km from Djibouti in the north to near Meru and the estuary of the Tana River in Kenya in the south to Moyale in southern Ethiopia in the west and, of course, to Ras Asyer, the very Horn of Africa and the islands just off shore therein, but currently in the hands of Yemen. These are the Socotra islands at the mouth of the Red Sea. The population of the region is much larger than the currently fake reports given in official statistics on Somali population in the region. They are, indeed, the largest ethnic group in East and Horn of Africa with some sixty-eight million people, who reside mainly in four countries – Somalia (thirty million), Djibouti (one million), Ethiopia (twenty-five million), Kenya (twelve million). Some even live in Eritrea, although not significantly large. This is one ethnic group who have dominated the Horn of Africa for millennia, and despite appearing disorganized on the surface remain a force to reckon with when it comes to their survival.

The second to realize is that the step taken by Ethiopia on Somalia territory both land and sea was wrong, and that it should retract the MoU it signed with one of the regions of Somalia. Not retracting it would lead to more antagonisms in the region and would not be in the best interest of the region not only in the short term but also in the long run. The wars and enmities that would be triggered by this memo would only cause more chaos, more deaths and destruction and, indeed, less economic growth and more underdevelopment. The wars that may ensue from this adventure would definitely lead to a splintering of Ethiopia into its many component parts, some eighty nationalities held together by force currently. It is not like Somalis which are held together by blood and ethnicity, wherever they are!

The third is to realize that Ethiopia needs to step back from the continuing civil strives it got involved in 2020, and which still continues. Nothing is changeable through force and as Wilwal, a famous Somali wiseman would have said long ago, that in dealing with another man, there is nothing better than to call him “brother” or basically treat him as another brother. It cannot tame its rebellious regions such as Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and others through force. It would only lead to hardening of hearts and dismemberment of the country. Others may still join the fray, should Ethiopia not step back from the current path it has chosen for itself, which is basically confrontational. The same goes for all the countries of the region, Somalia in particular. It is now over thirty years that the country has been living in disarray and political turmoil. It is perhaps time the country’s leaders replanted the seed of the nation, once again.

The fourth is to realize that the region’s countries need each other. Not a single country can be self-sufficient ‘as is.’ In the old days of the steam engine, the drivers of the engine had to stand by the fire. It was part of the job, without which no engine could run. The same thing is applicable to people who are in the civic/political life. They are often confronted by the blazing fires of their own anger and those of society. They must deal with wrongdoers both real and imagined, much as a steam engine driver dealt with engine fire and his desire to stay away from it. Individuals in society have to learn to cope with each other and work with each other and live with each other. It is the only way a society can function in harmony and the same goes for countries and in particular those which are neighbors. Why shouldn’t the SEED countries live together and work together in harmony instead of hurting each other? Emotional bonds are said to hold a family together, but rational efforts keep societies and countries together, despite all the differences that there may exist.

They say that for every door that closes, there is another that opens up. Is the road really closed for a regional Horn of Africa States block? I believe not!

 
 

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

    *Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at suleimanwalhad@yahoo.com.


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