14 July 2017

East Africa: To Take Up the Horn Challenge


Following the opening of Suez Canal by the end of 1860s, Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden ceased to be a mere water body between Africa's Horn and the Arabian Peninsula, and began to serve as the most important waterway of strategic and economic importance.

The episode brought both challenges and blessings to the world. But for the Horn, the challenges seem to weigh heavier. Political and ideological mishaps among major world powers have been shaping and reshaping the lives of the millions of people in the region. Recently, the crisis in the Gulf region has quickly descended to the Horn, and the region has unfortunately become an indirect victim of the Yemeni and Qatari crises. To make matters worse, the Isaias' regime, which is in a complete fiasco, has tapped into the situation to "prolong" its life.

Needless to mention the regime has long engaged in spoiling peace and security in the region and beyond, serving as safe havens for anti-peace forces. For instance, its unholy alliance with al-Shabaab has been undermining the state building effort in Somalia, while remaining threat for Ethiopia's national security. The unpalatable foe is also the architect behind forces that work to "deter" the fast-tracking progress of Ethiopia. Understanding these and other actions of the Asmara's political clique, the UN Security Council in 2009 passed Resolution 1702 sanctioning it from importing and exporting arms, among others.

The sanction had been a little respite for countries in the region. But, the regime opts for more lying- in- wait tactics until the emergence of a favourable situation for its malicious actions than working to correct its behaviour. Its recent provocative moves against Djibouti say it all. It clearly shows that the regime would never attempt to treat its schizophrenic health. A fuel on a fire could be the Yemeni crisis that has drawn the Gulf States to the port of Assab. For a group with such ill-intents, any possible compensation by the Gulf coalition for the use of the port would be a burden on the Horn, particularly if it goes in terms of military benefits.

Anyone that understands the regime's character could not take this as trying to stick one's nose into the bilateral relations of sovereign states for sovereignty itself is explained by the extent of efforts countries exert not to harm the peace and security of other nation-states.

It could also be legitimate to deal with the crisis in the Gulf region, but the move remains counter-productive if it directly and indirectly helps anti-peace forces in the Horn to get stronger military and financial muscles. To put it another way, fixing one problem at the expense of the other would mean nothing other than immature gambling over the security and economic interest of all those that use the waterway. Isn't it?

The entire issue is, therefore, to say that every Horn players including the Arabian states should critically look into the future of the region within the present context.

Firstly, Ethiopia, as a country that is making headlines on its development fronts, needs to devise a policy that gives the "No war, no peace" situation an end sooner than later. This is high time to further consolidate its security and economic interests along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The country's ongoing peaceful relationship with the GCC countries presents ample opportunity to sustainably deal with the Eritrean regime, in one hand. The country's non-permanent status in the UNSC is additional impetus to urge member states respect the sanction against Eritrea, on the other.

Moreover, for a maritime route worth well over 700 billion USD annually [Centre for International Maritime Security, 2016], keeping war mongers at bay cannot be a matter of choice but a must do job. In this case, the UN, AU and IGAD have bigger responsibilities of ensuring peace in the Horn.

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