7 August 2018

East Africa: The Changing Political Dynamics in the Horn

Photo: VOA
(File photo).

The Horn of Africa used to known for its volatile political situation where terrorism, droughts, social crisis and political crisis had brewed from as headline of major world news. The new reforms ongoing in Ethiopia may be influencing positively towards creating peace and stability in the troubled Horn of Africa.

Ethiopian government has clearly defined the Horn of Africa and home politics and has come up with solutions with a sense of progressing together. It has made it clear that Ethiopia's development cannot be realized without pacifying the whole region. Accordingly, it has been working since then.

The Ethiopian (2002) Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy, however, is fundamentally about principles of policy and strategy. Its hallmark was a rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the domestic situation of Ethiopia, its national interests, and the international context. Much has also changed over 16 years; and it is necessary to apply the same analytical framework to a rapidly changing regional and international environment. The White Paper does not go deeply into the details of how the guiding principles should be translated into specific goals, processes and institutions so that it can fit to the existing challenges. It also attempts to correct past mistakes of previous regimes which were sources of mistrust and acts of revenge and have been hindering the peace and stability of the horn. Hence, the current foreign and security policy is new in kind and a departure from the past. It main objective is fostering peaceful coexistence among the people of the region.

The Ethiopian government envisions and works hard towards a region where everyone can lead safe and productive life regardless of who they are or where they live. It is aimed at creating peaceful coexistence among the peoples of neighbouring countries through executing friendly foreign policy which benefit all equally. However, the policy towards to the region and at home is becoming more dormant nowadays. Hence, this article attempts to show the changing politics of the region in relation to the Ethiopian Foreign policy.

Of course, Ethiopia is known wildly for its critical peacekeeping participation in the 1950s during the Korean War. It also did participate in Congo and Burundi too, testifying its readiness to solve Africa's problem by Africans. Ethiopia did not stop there. It also involved controlling Rwanda's heartbreaking genocide at the time when the world's superpowers refused to interfere. When the UNSC appealed member countries to interfere in the Liberian civil war which terrified hundreds of thousands civilians, Ethiopia did not take time to engage bravely and responsibly.

The world has talked so much about the key achievements of Ethiopia in peacekeeping mission. It was not something difficult to predict what horrors would have happened to the whole region if it was not for Ethiopia's brave move to contain and weaken the Al-Qaida linked terrorists based in Somalia. Following the call from the internationally recognized government of Somalia, Ethiopia entered inside Somalia and dismantled the Islamic Courts groups who were about to wreck the security of the horn of Africa and beyond.

Having broken the backbone of the terrorists, Ethiopia withdrew from Somalia, handing over the responsibility to the Somalia government. It also trained, and helped the armies and security forces of Somalia so that they would manage their own affairs by themselves. After the creation of this suitable environment, the African Union deployed peacekeeping missions from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Ethiopia. These measures enabled Somalia to greatly breathe the air of peace and hope. Somalia has recently conducted a democratic election and the country is now adopting a federal structure.

When a deadly civil war erupted in South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, it was Ethiopia that first took the responsibility to reconcile the conflicting parties. Attempts have been made via IGAD for the last three years to bring peace and stability. However, a support from the international community is needed to successfully maintain peace in the fragile South Sudan. The UNSC is now inviting Ethiopia to send its peacekeeping missions which Ethiopia is preparing well to do so. What Ethiopia has done and what is going on in the region, however, its foreign policy seemed irrelevant nowadays towards the new development in the region. Hence, it should produce new fitting policy urgently.

The ongoing efforts of economic integration with Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan are encouraging. Ethiopia has been realizing big development projects in the spirit to create an integrated economic development with all neighbouring countries. The power transmission lines installations as well as road and railway constructions are under way with Kenya, Djibouti, South Sudan and Sudan.

These are among the practical achievements which are believed to foster regional integration. The aim of the economic integration is to provide fair and equity economic benefit to all peoples of the horn of Africa and hence alleviate poverty as it is regarded as one major source of conflict. Ultimately, it will be also expected to create sense of ownership among all peoples to safeguard the peace and stability of the horn. Therefore, the aim is to create peaceful coexistence which can guarantee peace and security. For these reasons, the terrorists trained and guided by Eritrean regime are tightly contained from terrorizing the peoples around the Indian Pacific Ocean.

Ethiopia's assistance to the maintenance of world peace has made her the largest peacekeeping mission contributing country in Africa and third in the world. The world has shown admiration for this contribution. Ethiopia is elected by 182 out of 190 countries to be non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

The civil war erupted recently in South Sudan would continue to be the toughest issue for IGAD to manage. Ethiopia will also continue to discharge its principled efforts to help IGAD manage the burning fire in South Sudan. In this regard, it is possible to realize comprehensive peace efforts and save the South Sudanese people from being engulfed by clan based warlords. The case of Somalia is a model to IGAD and Ethiopia that peace is possible in South Sudan too. Somalia is having new elected President. It is hoped that the people will be in far better situations.

However, it seemed nothing is being done by Ethiopia to contain the flooding of the stated countries into the horn. What should be done so?

I believe the White Paper has brought successful peace, social and economic integration in the region. However, there are newly created challenges which it will find it difficult to manage. The new developments in Somaliland, Djibouti, Eritrea and South Sudan are completely out of the scope of the foreign policy document. Hence, it needs improvement to fit the current development at home and in the region.

Scholars and politicians should conduct detailed research on the new political, security and economic trends occurring currently in the horn vis-à-vis Ethiopia's interest and should come up with recommendations and solutions so that the government should take them seriously and implement it properly for common cause. However, failed to do so, Ethiopia and the region will likely be trapped by complications.

I believe Prime Minister Abiy will keep his positive and constructive policies towards helping the Horn of Africa remain in peace.

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