East Africa: How the U.S. Can Support Peace and Democracy in the Horn of Africa

3 January 1993
Africa News Service (Durham)

An Appeal to the New Clinton Administration from U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations

With public attention focused on Somalia, a group of about 40 American-based humanitarian, development, religious and relief groups has issued an appeal to the incoming Clinton administration for an innovative policy toward the Horn of Africa. The region encompasses the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, as well as the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the north of Somalia and the territory of Eritrea, which is to become an independent state in April.

The statement by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), reprinted below, calls for a combination of relief, peace, reconstruction and political initiatives.

These are the worst of times and the best of times in the Horn of Africa, a region which includes Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland. Twenty-three million residents of the Horn are at risk of starvation; 7 million have been uprooted due to violence and famine, and 7,000 are dying each week as a result. A complete breakdown in many places of both traditional and state structures has made Somalia the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Egregious human rights violations, religious and ethnic persecution, and severe famine in the south and west are witnessed with increasing frequency in Sudan, wracked by civil war since 1983. Even Djibouti is beset by civil conflict.

On the other hand, two of the world's most brutal dictators have been overthrown in the past two years in Ethiopia and Somalia. One of the world's longest wars has ended in Eritrea. Local reconstruction has begun in some areas. Post-war Ethiopia and Eritrea are just beginning efforts at democratization.

Even as the world searches for new ways to provide emergency assistance to the 23 million people in the Horn who are at risk of starvation, a parallel effort must be undertaken to support the fledgling attempts throughout the region at reconstruction and popular participation in decision-making.

In that spirit, the Coalition for Peace in the Horn of Africa, an ad hoc collaboration of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), presents a series of principles and initiatives designed to feed the Horn's most vulnerable, prevent future holocausts from recurring and build a sound basis for sustainable peace in the region.

In April 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Horn of Africa Recovery and Food Security Act. Bread for the World, the Center of Concern and scores of other humanitarian and religious organizations, as partners in the Coalition for Peace in the Horn of Africa, supported this bill. In previous decades, U.S. policy emphasized military and economic aid to despotic regimes perceived to be useful in the context of the Cold War. The new law mandates an active U.S. role in peace-making and directs U.S. aid to grass-roots development programs.

Thus far these legislative objectives have had little impact on the executive branch. ...

The NGOs and the individuals listed at the end of this document support the following principles and initiatives for the new administration to pursue in the areas of humanitarian relief, peace, reconstruction and democratization.

Humanitarian Relief

Assistance should be made available to all vulnerable people in the Horn of Africa, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, political orientation or geographical location.

The United States, in conjunction with a revitalized United Nations, should work assiduously to achieve cease-fires, safe passage agreements and corridors of tranquillity for relief supplies.

Warring factions should not be allowed to exercise veto power over humanitarian operations.

The United States should encourage the international donor community to involve all fragments of civil society in planning and implementing aid programs. Local NGOs and community structures should be strengthened and empowered to participate fully in the delivery of relief supplies.

In situations of genocide or mass starvation such as Somalia, or in situations where active diplomacy has failed to encourage the free passage of aid as in the case of Sudan, the UN Security Council should deploy armed escorts to protect relief supplies. But even limited armed intervention must be planned very carefully with clear humanitarian objectives.

Peace Initiatives

Either acting with its allies or through the United Nations and/or the Organization of African Unity, the United States must energetically pursue all diplomatic channels to end war and war-induced famine in the Horn. The wars raging in Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti have not been the focus of sustained, high-level efforts at conflict resolution. The same diplomatic vigor which accompanied the creation of the Gulf War coalition should be employed in the quest for peace in the Horn of Africa.

Further, the United States must place greater emphasis on the prevention of conflict and humanitarian crisis. The horror of Somalia should not detract from a fundamental lesson: Had there been intervention to assist Siad Barre's early departure and a subsequent political process, a much less violent transition may have resulted. Preemptive diplomacy, such as U.S. involvement in Ethiopia's transition in 1991, is critical.

The peace-making efforts of NGOs and indigenous groups should also be respected and supported. Locally initiated peace processes have generated positive results during the last few years among militia leaders in Darfur (western Sudan), community leaders in the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, clan elders in certain areas of Somalia, and local councils in Ethiopia.

The United States should contribute its agreed-upon share of financial and other support for UN peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping funds should be drawn from the defense budget.

The UN Security Council must proactively move to staunch the flow of weapons into the Horn. Iran and China have publicly provided arms to the government in Sudan, but numerous countries privately give weapons to that regime as well as to some of the Somali combatants. Certain Middle Eastern allies of the United States should be particular targets of a campaign of regional nonproliferation of weapons.


The United States should make a long-term commitment to support reconstruction in the Horn. Reconstruction is an imperative component of reconciliation and democratization. For areas that are relatively tranquil and for emerging governments that develop participatory processes, outside aid is critical.

Reconstruction aid should be geared toward grass-roots, sustainable, people-centered development. Projects and programs should involve local communities, indigenous NGOs and local government structures in planning, implementing and managing projects. Otherwise, the activities will not be sustainable.

More resources need to be channeled through international NGOs in supporting local efforts and forming equal partnerships with local groups. Indigenous religious entities, relief and rehabilitation organizations, and other local groups have carried out locally defined development activities even in conflict areas. International NGOs, many of which are based in the United States, have been helpful in assisting local development efforts of indigenous groups, as well as in initiatives of their own. More assistance for local institution-building would be useful.

The United States should urge the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to be flexible in negotiating economic reform programs with Horn governments. The World Bank and other major donors are supporting a structural adjustment program in Ethiopia. There are profound social impacts to this difficult restructuring period. It is important not only to provide programs to soften the impact on the poor and vulnerable, but to ensure that sufficient investments are made in these groups in order to lay the foundation for sustainable economic development. The United States should be supportive of adjustment programs that emphasize food security and access to productive resources for small farmers and pastoralists and which are formulated through a democratic process.

The United States should quickly launch a bilateral aid program in Eritrea and urge other donors to do the same. While awaiting a referendum on independence, Eritrea remains unrecognized as a nation, a status that has deprived it of most of government-to-government aid. After 30 years of war, reconstruction needs are enormous and require a rapid response.

The United States should provide assistance to international and indigenous NGOs capable of responding to the massive reconstructive needs in the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, even if the territory's political status is unresolved.

Given the region's 1.5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced, lasting peace, reconstruction and nation-building require well-planned and properly funded repatriation programs when conditions in the Horn permit.


The United States should recognize and support the numerous fledgling attempts at democratization throughout the Horn. Many are locally rooted movements for self-determination and greater popular control of processes and systems that affect people's lives. These have taken a variety of forms, some based on religion, some on racial or ethnic identity, some on ideology, and still others on geographic location. The important policy implication here is to remain flexible in assessing the different manifestations of democracy which might emerge in response to the Horn's unique history.

Because the process of and results from regional elections in Ethiopia were not universally accepted inside or outside the country, the United States should expand its aid program in order to assist the transitional government in building a more broadly based coalition in preparation for national elections. The United States was slow to support the election process. The more the United States and other donors constructively support the process of including all segments of Ethiopian society in the democratization process, the better the prospects are for success.

Both directly and through the United Nations, the United States should support the referendum process in Eritrea through financial and technical assistance. After 30 years of armed struggle, Eritreans have won their right to self-determination. By April 1993, an internationally monitored referendum allowing the people to decide their own future will be completed.

The United States should work diplomatically and financially to isolate the government of Sudan. The U.S. Congress has clearly stated that no government that is systematically abusing human rights and repressing international dissent is eligible for U.S. non-emergency aid. The Congress has further legislated that the United States not support any multilateral aid as well, including World Bank and International Monetary Fund credits. These laws clearly apply to the current regime in Sudan, which has ruthlessly repressed basic human rights along religious and racial lines. The United States should further encourage other donor governments to withhold non-emergency aid to Sudan and encourage the situation to be taken up at the level of the UN Security Council.

The United States should promote greater utilization of the UN Human Rights Commission for the purpose of investigating and publicizing human rights abuses in the Horn and developing recommendations for the international community to deal with egregious violators.

Signatories include Africare, the African Faith and Justice Network, Bread for the World, Center of Concern, Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Congressional Human Rights Foundation, Development Group for Alternative Policies, Eritrean Relief Committee, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Lutheran World Relief, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Catholic Women, Relief Association for Southern Sudan, RESULTS, Somali Community Services, Society of African Missions, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, U.S. Catholic Conference, U.S. Committee for Refugees, U.S. Jesuit Conference, Washington Office on Africa, and World Vision.

For more information, please contact Sharon Pauling of Bread for the World at (202) 269-0200 or John Prendergast of the Center of Concern at (202) 635-2757.

From AFRICA NEWS, December 21, 1992 - January 3, 1993

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