Dehai News The Horn Of Africa States: The Fallacy Of IGAD – OpEd [Part II]

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Sunday, 04 February 2024


The Horn Of Africa States: The Fallacy Of IGAD – OpEd  [Part I]


n my previous article on the matter on December 11, 2023, I concluded that “ It is time the regional leaders were kinder to their populations and to the world by coming together to create a new effective organization that is local and executive – The Horn of Africa States regional block (“HAS”) and walk away from the fallacy of IGAD.” In that piece I discussed the irrelevance of IGAD, which remains just another NGO through which some irrelevant funds are channeled to the region, which do not add one iota to the region’s development. I noted further that the organization does not own the necessary mechanisms to mediate, intervene and handle regional issues. It is, indeed, an instrument of intervention by others into the regional affairs through humanitarian channels, managed and handled by civil servants from some of the member countries. 

It interfered and failed in South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia and even currently in the conflict brewing between Somalia and Ethiopia over the latter’s intervention in Somalia’s internal affairs through an ill-designed MoU with one of the regions of Somalia, which promises to give Ethiopia a part of Somalia’s territory, both land and sea, without even properly giving credence to the region. Ethiopia refused to join a meeting called for and organized by its current Chairman, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti in Kampala, Uganda earlier this month. The organization does not have any means to force an erring party, such as Ethiopia just did, to correct its ways, demonstrating the irrelevancy of the institution.

Worse again, Ethiopia is currently using Kenya to call for a meeting of the Heads of State through a back door channel when it refused to come through the front door. How unfortunate, the Executive Secretary General of the Organization who is a civil servant from Ethiopia, a failed diplomat who cannot tell the truth from lies, is facilitating these ill-advised maneuvers, once again clearly evidencing that the organization is only used by some countries versus others for their own nefarious purposes. Countries like Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and even Djibouti should withdraw from this organization and create a new one, the Horn of Africa States to be based in Djibouti. 

It is up to Ethiopia to join or not. Currently it apparently looks as if choosing its own side as a disruptive entity in the region and following an anachronistic policy of bygone days, which would never come back – the days of bygone empire building by force, perhaps because it is larger in size or larger in population. Size, however, is not a determinant of success. It is hard work, dexterity, proper use of resources, less corruption and skilled application of teamwork both within the country and with neighbors that mark successful countries. Smaller countries perform much better than much larger countries such as Singapore versus Ethiopia or Switzerland versus Ethiopia and many others.

IGAD failed in many instances as presented hereunder:

  • The IGAD Peace Support Mission in Somalia (IGASOM) was a peacekeeping mission of IGAD in Somalia, which consisted of soldiers from Ethiopia, which failed miserably as Somalis resisted their presence in the country. The current prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiye Ahmed is reported to have been a soldier then in that contingent, which miserably failed, and which had to be rescued by an African Union Mission which still operates in the country, presently through is other name ATMIS or the African Transitional Mission in Somalia. They appear to be on their way out by the end of 2024, after a 17-year presence in the country.
  • South Sudan is in a continuous conflict since its separation from Sudan. Peace processes and negotiations between the two antagonistic groups are being handled by IGAD almost from inception. Yet it had not found a solution after 13 years (from 2011 to 2024), demonstrating that IGAD is not the right venue nor the right body to mediate between the Government and opposition of South Sudan. It would appear IGAD is being used as a milking cow by some countries, mostly Ethiopia.
  • Sudan has just suspended its membership of IGAD simply because IGAD has wrongly invited the RSF to the IGAD Meeting in Kampala, Uganda earlier this month. This is a further demonstration that IGAD is not a viable regional organization born out of the desires of the region. It does not have any mechanisms for managing the affairs of the group, other than being disruptive and interventionist used by third-party funding forces.
  • Eritrea had suspended its IGAD membership in 2007 after a string of disagreements with IGAD and some of the members, particularly Ethiopia, which was using it as an instrument of its foreign policy, only to rejoin it in 2023, after a 16-year absence. 

Obviously, it did not succeed in any of the activities of peacekeeping and mediations it got involved in. Perhaps, it should have stayed with its original mandate of dealing with droughts and desertification. As a political organization, its operations were not only unsuccessful but mischievous, used by one or two countries for their political ends with respect to the region, namely Ethiopia and Kenya. Kenya already belongs to another economic group, the EAC and IGAD, apparently, would not be in its priorities. Ethiopia, on the other hand uses it as a begging bowl, being an NGO, funded and financed by non-regional parties, mostly European or as an instrument of its foreign policy, as its current Ethiopian Executive Secretary General amply demonstrates.

The region needs a home-based, home-financed and self-reliant organization of the actual Horn of Africa States. It needs to have a functional organization that achieves its mandate and is not used as a political instrument by some against other members of the group as is the case with IGAD today. It should not include other countries which have only joined IGAD as a double-dip mechanism to benefit from the resources given by third parties. The budget of the Horn of Africa States regional block, if it ever comes to light, should be funded by the governments of the region and should have a heading in their budgets. Such an organization would be more realistic and result-oriented and should, in due course, change the face of the region. Instead of being antagonistic to each other, the region should be collaborative and cooperative and should offer the region a better negotiating bargain with others instead of the single countries of today, bargaining alone.

In the current world of today, most countries realize that it is not rational to stay isolated and alone as single countries. Countries group themselves through several mechanisms, either geographically, or ethnically or culturally or even through political setups. Countries, indeed, work together in groups through networks that bring forth together mutual benefits and lessen the chances for the occurrence of wars within the group and with others. Some organizations are generally based on security, but most are based on common developmental policies involving economic integration, customs unions, cultural values, movement of both capital, goods and services and labor. They are often geographically close and need to be working with each other. Such would be the Horn of Africa States, which depict many commonalities among themselves, including geographical proximities, historical and cultural affinities, racial and ethnic closeness of the peoples and many other aspects.

Regional organizations succeed better when appropriate actions are taken against an erring party. Ethiopia currently erred in not joining the IGAD meeting in Kampala earlier this month and nothing was done by IGAD to force it to correct its way, which only points to the irrelevance of the institution. Aggressors should never get an easy hand, they often say, if a regional block has to succeed. A Horn of Africa States consisting of the core Horn of Africa countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti with a potentially Sudan (the SEED or SEEDS countries) should form a new grouping that is based on solid Horn Africa values and financing, and not on foreign values and/or funding.


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

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

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