Dehai News The Horn Of Africa States: Mayhem And Instability – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 27 February 2024


Not learning from its mistakes is one of the greatest misfortunes of the Horn of Africa States. The best way of turning defeat into victory is basically to learn from one’s mistakes, which apparently the region has not yet understood or does not want to understand. In either case. It is a great misfortune of the region, to suffer from the same ills and disasters in the form of natural calamities and man-made catastrophes resulting from its ethnic-inspired politicians year in year out over the past hundred and fifty years, with the last five years being the worst.

These so-called politicians almost maddened by their ethnic instincts do not heed the cries of their poor populations nor do they heed the call of the international community. They abuse and live off the backs of the poor and hungry millions of the region when the international community responds to the calls for help. These quarrelsome ethnic-based politicians do not only create conflicts within their constituencies but also cross into the neighborhood at times as the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia has done to Sudan with his support for the RSF rebellion group and hence interference in the affairs of that country and Somalia through the illegal MoU he signed with one of the regions of Somalia. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia already failed to make peace in Oromia, started wars in Amhara and Tigray States of his country with other conflicts raging in the Afar, Benishangul, and other states of the country. Millions have either perished or were maimed and wounded and/or displaced in over the last several years. Millions more are hungry and dying or sick.

The security situation of the Horn of Africa States region is currently precarious and dangerous and could trigger a much larger war as the Ethiopian Prime Minister, poor as his country is, keeps sabre rattling and threatening that his country, as landlocked as it is, would have an owned access to a sea. In the past, it was unclear which sea he was referring to but the illegal MoU he signed recently clarifies that he actually wants to take a piece of Somalia’s territorial land and coast by force, reversing the traditional source of conflict in the region. In the past it was Somalia which claimed lands in Ethiopia, the current Somali State of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is now planning to take a piece of Somalia’s territory illegally, which is not acceptable to the current international rules-based order, either and hence isolating his country as the territorial claims did to Somalia in the past. Somalia will, of course, fight back and has already aligned itself with Turkey to defend its territorial lands and seas and airspace.

At one time, Ethiopia was seen by the international community as an anchor of stability in a volatile region, mostly blamed on Somalia. The region seems to have changed one hundred and eighty degrees with Ethiopia now becoming the source of most troubles and most conflicts. Millions of lives of both people and livestock are currently at risk in the region, not only because of the natural calamities of famines, droughts, and floods but because of the inability of people to grow their own food and inability of the international community to reach those in need of help as a result of the conflicts raging in the region, mostly in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia appeared to have reached a watershed in 2018 between authoritarianism and democracy, whereby the country was transitioning from one hundred and fifty years of imperial and/or authoritarian rule of the past to democratic processes. However, it appears the country seems to be reverting to its traditional wiles and ways of authoritarianism. The current regime, however, is not as strong as those of the past authoritarian regimes. The Dergue relied heavily for support on the Ex-Soviet Union while the TPLF relied heavily on the West. China, the current biggest economic supporter of the country, is not known to have good taste for foreign military adventures as other comparable powers and is not expected to be a useful ally militarily. Ethiopia earlier appeared floating and undecided as to which camp it belongs to in the current shifting power infrastructures, but it made its choice when it joined the BRICS Plus group recently. 

The involvement of some Gulf Arab States, most notably the United Arab Emirates in the region has been strong and mostly disruptive. Their involvement in both Sudan and Ethiopia and even Somalia has only made the situations of these countries worse. It is surprising that these Gulf countries are stretching their muscles over poor African countries when they cannot help their own brothers who are being slaughtered under their watch. It is also a surprise that Ethiopia, which traditionally used to have an independent decision-making ability has currently become a toy for a small wealthy Gulf country which has persuaded it to antagonise all its neighbors at the same time including Eritrea with which it signed peace, Djibouti, which handles about 95% of its imports and exports and Somalia, which could have become a close ally and even Kenya, which now complains that Ethiopia wants to take its Lamu Coast. 

The Horn of Africa States region has, indeed, experienced an aggravated poverty, misrule and/or weak governance, which keep adding to the mayhem and instabilities in the region for over three decades now. It is perhaps time the region’s politicians self-audited themselves and each one reconsidered his position to correct the mistakes and injustices he is committing or committed. Perhaps the first step in this direction is to start improving relations among themselves. This may include cancellation of the troublesome and fruitless MoU signed by Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, *pull back of Eritrea’s forces from the small foothold of  Djiboutian territory, improve the Eritrean/Ethiopian relations at least to meet each other and discuss matters. 

*[There is none of 'Djiboutian territory' which is under 'Eritrean control' as you falsly claimed].

An ambiance of peace among the Horn African countries is not only necessary but a must in the emerging multipolar world. This would not only cool down the sparks about to fly among some of the countries but may also help the political leaders to look more peacefully into the internal conflicts of each country and find solutions with the help of the other Horn African neighbors. Peace in the Horn of Africa States should not be like those mathematical equations that could not be solved like the Riemann Hypothesis or the Collatz Conjecture. Peace is made by leaders and not by the general public or youtubers, although the latter keep leaders in check. It is perhaps time the leaders of the region learned from the mistakes of the region, theirs and those of the past leaders, and turned the region into a viable and successful region like others across the globe.


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

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

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