By Mohamed A. Mohamoud – Barawani
The rivalry between international actors on the Horn of Africa region due to geostrategic interests can only fuel more interstate and intrastate conflicts in the foreseeable future.
The Horn of Africa region is characterized by poor governance and stalling democratic practices, where authoritarian regimes and one-party systems dominate the political arena letting in contending external actors and proxy political activities to germinate fresh challenges.
The interminable, debilitating issues have slowed down growth and political stability which signaled to external actors to intercede in these issues disregarding the fact that these actors and institutions, themselves, have no attuned vision except the employment of plenty espionage and covert operations in the region.
The most fundamental and challenging matter is the land dispute that has prompted both the interstate and intrastate conflicts. The Horn of Africa has become in the oasis of violent conflicts, civil wars, ethnic clashes, and remains constantly underdeveloped.
The most erroneous matter we inherited from colonialists is a territorial demarcation that revealed the transgression of the ethnic groups and the subsequent ambivalence of state commitments only further exacerbated cross-border conflicts created mostly by divided ethnic groups clashing with other equally divided groups.
The territorial disputes within and between states and the accumulation of problems caused by these disputes are the core of drivers of all our problems. For instance, within the states, the ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Eritrea are inconceivable, and not admissible. Somaliland and Somalia clans’ conflicts have thwarted peace, security, and political stability. In Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, the magnitude of the ethnic conflicts are calamitous.
In recent years, the Ethiopia ethnic tensions -Oromo versus Somali have endangered regional peace and security. In South Sudan, clan rivalries are often quoted as a major factor in President Kiir-Machar’s frequent standoffs.
Somalia is another classical example. For the past 30 years, Somalia was under clan-instigated conflicts, political turmoil, incessant terrorism and insurgencies which, ultimately necessitated the deployment of peacekeeping troops.
The clans’ conflicts over the power and land have mired the state-building of Somalia. In contrast, Somaliland has succeeded in its peacemaking efforts and state-building but the clans’ conflicts over land, water resources, and grazing areas have effects on the peace and security in the country. Somaliland is, to its credits, also, ranked as a leading democratic state in the region because of the multiparty political system, free press, and holding of competitive elections.
Eritrea, Djibouti, and Uganda’s political systems have made successful attempts to deflate ethnic aggressions but, still, there are disparities and internal grievances that can potentially reignite tensions. Basically, as long as the rotating leadership through a democratic manner is missing, the ethnic salient issues would remain persuasive and insidious.
Kenya’s ethnic tensions and violent conflicts are mostly linked to elections such as that of 2007. Kenya, however, has not experienced civil wars and is more open and democratic in contrast to many regional states.
However, most states in the region have created a form of political loyalty or social spheres that few people, either ethnic or clans benefit from the national resources through monopoly and nepotism.
This has blurred the overall co-existence of ethnic groups or communities by exacerbating the structural conflicts, political uncertainties, instabilities ultimately ending with a destructive corollary. Such a neo-patrimonialist political system is a foundation of an overall socioeconomic and political backwardness in Africa.
The Ethiopia and Eritrea peace accord was highly welcomed internationally. This was the first Ethiopia new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s testimony for coming up with unusual leadership. Although Eritrea’s leadership benefited from this pact and arms with embargos lifted, the people to people and trade relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea did not flourish as anticipated.
The Horn of Africa is, now pursuing uncommon new alliances that have fomented tensions between regional states. A new questionable alliance between Ethiopia, Somalia an Eritrea is being formed relegating other players in the region.
This alliance has potential of undermining the spirit and dream of the regional economic integration and trade cooperation. This may also trigger some malicious factors that exacerbate the existing regional political and economic vulnerability.
Further, there are a lot of speculations and assumptions surrounding this alliance because the region is now the target of inimical external actors. The United States versus China is at the pinnacle of renewed attention to the Horn since fresh geopolitical alterations transpired particularly between Ethiopia, on one side and Sudan and Egypt on the other.
In the new regional alliances, some diplomatic sources vindicate that this wrestle of the geopolitical contest was envisioned to pave the way to abrogate and halt the China sphere of influence in the region, though, China economic activities are more profound through debt trap and loan investments. The US, to stem the encroaching takeover of China, started investing in mutinies against China interest, on one hand, and show of alliance to a number of states on the other.
Subsequently increasing proxy wars over the Nile waters between upstream and downstream countries face complex conditions. The African Union waning role to mediate is observable, and this issue of Nile waters requires multilayered efforts beyond the region. The fight over the Nile waters between Ethiopia and Egypt has an adverse connotation in the regional development cooperation.
Further, Somaliland and Taiwan’s recent diplomatic relationship has had its own thoughtful measures of building a friendship and mutual cooperation. Nonetheless, China sees that the Republic of Somaliland has openly rejected the one-China policy by allying itself with Taiwan. China’s approaches to Somaliland came concurrently after Taiwan arrived in the region – an apparent attempt to reverse the decision of an unbudgeable Somaliland.
Somaliland subsequently clarified that the diplomatic ties with Taiwan is not meant to prevent any bilateral cooperation with China. Somaliland would welcome China if it reviewed its policy of one Somalia and joined the countries that encourage a two-state solution in the case of Somaliland and Somalia. In other words, the US optimism in this diplomatic ties between Somaliland –Taiwan can add value to the parties to broaden and strategize this political pristine of two de facto states.
Mohamed A. Mohamoud – Barawani is
Independent Researcher, political analysis, based in Hargeysa, Somaliland