Dehai News Horn Of Africa States: Leaders Are Failing The Region – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 19 February 2024


The region is still at war with itself and most of these wars are the result of the failure of its leaders which, of course, is assisted by forces from beyond the region, who wish to take advantage of its geostrategic location. The general intelligentsia of the region, its politicians, elders and community leaders are mostly reduced to be talking on behalf of the various tribes and clans of the region and not on behalf of the region. They do not add one iota to the development of the region except more chaos and more trouble.

We have proposed that the only path for development in the region is reforms in the political, economic and social progress of the region instead of the continuing wars among its various tribes and clans, which only adds more chaos and more trouble for the region within each state of the region and among the states of the region. This makes the region one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its natural resources, including its geostrategic location for both maritime and Aerospatiale travel.

Indeed, the region’s security, territorial integrity and national sovereignties all seem to be falling into the hands of foreigners who have little interest in the region and its future development. No wonder all political reforms, including institutional reforms, civic society processes, freedoms of expressions and private involvement in development still stay mostly in the hands of governments controlled through corrupt processes. 

The region suffers from terror groups who seem to have found safe havens in the region and who mess up the region more and more and assisted indirectly by leaders who seem to be busy on their self-images and self-profiting instead of the large populations of the region which are suffering from maladministration, economic inequalities and governmental suppressions. It is a sad region.

The activities of the region’s politicians stunt the development of the region instead of forging it ahead in competition with other regions and especially closer regions like the East Africa Community, which is even absorbing some of the countries of the region. Somalia has already been absorbed into the EAC, which shares little with the EAC and perhaps soon Ethiopia would join. Eritrea generally stays away from most activities in the region while Djibouti remains busy managing the many forces in its country, which have all opened shop there.

The region suffers most from tribal/ethnic infighting in the region, which only adds to its continuing underdevelopment, its lack of freedoms, its lack of institutional reforms and its lack of cooperation among its countries. It is, indeed, a poor region sacrificed by its own leaderships for their own personal self-aggrandizing by promises of non-achievable feats that would cause more chaos and strife in the region. Beautiful words pronounced by the leaders remain just beautiful words and flowery promises like those of most politicians everywhere. Such was the speech of the Ethiopian Prime Minister in front of the African Union Heads of States yesterday, who kept repeating that Somalia and Somalis are brotherly people yet insisted on taking part of its sea and land through an illegal MoU signed with one of the regions of the country. If that is not double-speak, what else would it be?

Indeed, powerful countries do have bases in other countries such as the United States of America, but does Ethiopia think itself like such a power? It is barely able to feed itself and it would not be able to maintain naval bases in other countries and particularly Somalia with which it has a violent history. It would have been much more amiable if it abandoned the idea and worked on building a friendship with the country.

Geography is cruel and found many countries landlocked, including Ethiopia, but none of the landlocked countries go around and sign MoUs with regions of neighboring countries without the involvement of the central and/or federal governments of such countries. Linking economic development to lack of access to a sea is another false narrative. Ethiopia, indeed, has access to a sea. Countries pay access to the sea as Uganda does or Rwanda does or Kazakhstan or Nepal. Making false promises for one’s population that one would make an access to the sea for one’s country is again another false narrative and could only be described as expansionist if one wants to take a piece of another country’s coast for its own use. Each country has some advantage over another. Ethiopia is endowed with the source of the Blue Nile, for which it uses as a source of hydropower to provide energy to its population. It is an asset the region must all defend as the region should also defend the coasts of Somalia from others and from countries of the region as well.

The region is geostrategically located as it has always been for millennia with its historical trade links among the three old continents of the world of Africa, Asia and Europe. The Suez Canal, which opened in 1869 made it even more important and continues to highlight its importance. It overlooks one of the major waterways of the world. No wonder, there are currently so many navies in the waters of the region and many countries are setting up naval and other military bases therein. The Arabian Peninsula on the other side of the region across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is currently causing more headaches for the waterway, which affects the Horn of Africa States region, which has little to do or say about the source of the troubles, as it is busy on itself. Because of its induced poverties, the region keeps begging others for its continual survival and its leaders seem to be mindless of the fate of their peoples.

The region needs political, institutional and social reforms and cooperation among its public and private sectors to forge ahead in its development, but this requires peace and stability, which appears to be fading away. We made many proposals to the leaderships of the region over the course of the last decade, but they seem to have paid little heed to those and hence those proposals remained ineffective as the personal ambitions and personal self-aggrandizement of the leaders seems to be more important than the regional and even national needs.

Wearing the cloaks of nationalism without substance by its leaders has been one of the great pains of the region. False pretenses and taking ownership of the rule of law and truth into their own hands genuinely mark the region and this has not helped it so far. It only complicates matters more.

The leaders, instead of fighting each other, could have proposed regional dialogues, regional reforms and genuine developmental processes but these remain as distant as they could ever be. Opportunities in the region are thus lost or postponed indefinitely and the region’s poverty affected by climate worsening and foreign interferences, keeps it ever more challenging.

The current civil wars in Ethiopia and Somalia where thousands are dying unnecessarily and the inter-state disputes between the two countries are actually unnecessary. The two countries could have been working together instead of warring against each other and both bringing in foreigners into the realm of their difficulties. They should know better that the foreigner involvement and their financings are but the enemies of the region and do not add anything to the region except more chaos and more toils and troubles.

The year 2024 was supposed to start better but only got worse and it seems it will remain more chaotic than ever before. This will, of course, be music for the foreigners and its troublemakers who enjoy the troubles of the region and keep it busy on itself, instead of developing its economies, its agriculture, its social and political reforms and self-reliance.


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

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

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