Over the past six decades, the Horn of Africa has been a region of strife and conflict ravaging both the human lives and state resources. Poor leadership style in the region criminalized both the state and the economy. This is why many fellow citizens in the region believe that the conflicts and crisis in the region are a state-driven.
Somalia’s prolonged state collapse is one of the heartbreaking troubles in the region and greatly impacted on the regional peace and stability. Though it could be debatable, one of the major drivers of the Somalia’s protracted state collapse, is Somalia’s irredentism policy towards the Somali-speaking regions in the Horn. Djibouti, Somali region in Ethiopia, and the Northeastern region in Kenya could be an example. In this case, re-establishing strong state institutions in Somalia by the Somalis, could mean what, to the other states in the region? Do the regional states are honest about restoring well-built state institutions in Somalia? Do Somalis are ready to abandon their irredentism foreign policy objective? These are some thought-provoking questions.
The Republic of Somaliland, which merged with the Italian Somalia in 1960 to form the Greater Somali State in the Horn of Africa declared its withdrawal from the union in 1991, following a bitter war with the Somalia’s military regime. Somaliland has not yet attained de jure recognition from the international community. This is another dilemma in the region which needs a particular attention and consideration of all parties concerned.
The decades-long standoff between Somaliland and Somalia’s warring factions, and even the successive transitional and federal governments, have been shaped by Somalia’s political instability since the collapse of the central government in 1991. This dilemma dates back to the early decades of Somalia’s creation as a state. However, if this stand off were not settled by the concerned parties, it will bring another cycle of conflict and confrontation.
The Ethio–Eritrea border conflict is another dimension of the region’s conflicts. This conflict claimed the lives of over 70,000 people on both sides. Though the two countries are closing up a chapter of hate and hostility, what does this first round negotiation and dialogue mean to the other states in the region? Could it bring political and economic change?.
The Djibouti–Eritrea clash near Ras Doumeira is another potential conflict which may erupt sooner or later, if the two countries fail to address it. Therefore, ending the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea will definitely have an effect on this part of the region. The question is: what kind of effect it will bring?
Claiming Somalia’s territorial waters by Kenya, is a breach of the international boundaries, including territorial waters, and, without hesitation, the Kenyans has shown an interest to extend its territorial sea and jurisdiction to the Somalia waters due to the inward-looking of the Somalia politicians. This is a potential conflict which could erupt sooner or later between Somalia and Kenya.
The four-year old conflict between the Dinka and the Neur, the largest and the second largest ethnic group in South Sudan respectively, is another setback which greatly affected the prospects of the South Sudan’s state in post-independence period. Without doubt, the regional states exported their differences to South Sudan allying with the warring parties.
An oil-rich Abyei region between the two Sudans is another contested area. The two countries are claiming the possession of that part of the region. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached by the two sides in 2005 highlighted the importance of resolving the conflict in the contested area of Abyie. This is another potential conflict which can escalate at any time in the future if the two parties fail to resolve it.
Despite the fact that the Horn of Africa is a troubled region, I am not cynical about seeing a peaceful and a prosperous Horn African region, but, the willingness of the regional leaders to realize that ambition is discouraging. I have a grave concern over the future of the region, and returning to war in a struggle to control both the state power and natural resources in the expenses of others is inevitable and unavoidable.
I ask myself, Do the Somali leaders wherever they are aware the changing nature of the Horn? Where do they stand in this changing region? Not as individuals, but as Somali politicians and intellectuals.
Nasir M. Ali