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Issue 467 -- 8th-14th January 2011

Front Page

News Headlines

Upper House Member Asks President Geele To Support Somaliland

Somaliland Will Transfer Military Supplies From Impounded Plane To The UN

Local and Regional Affairs

Many Sudanese Leave North For South Ahead Of Sunday’s Vote

Uranium Being Smuggled Via EA To Iran - Wikileaks
Somalia's Al-Shabaab Bans Mixed-Sex Handshakes
 UN Refugee Agency Warns On Greek Anti-Migrant Fence
Ethiopian Tax Authorities Gets First Shipment Security Scanners


A Positive Example From Somaliland’s Colonial Past

Features & Commentary

International News


Debunking Common Fallacies about Who Abandoned Somali Unity
SSC Terror Boss Stranded In Dubai

Gleams Of Hope Among The Clouds: Prospects For The Horn Of Africa 2011

By Ahmed M.I. Egal
The Horn of Africa region (HOA) has always been strategically important as a vital conduit of east-west and north-south trade, and this has been evidenced by the efforts of global powers to either control the region or maintain cordial relations with rulers there. In the scramble for Africa during last two decades of the 19th century, Britain, France and Italy competed for control over the region with each securing control over some portions. During the Cold War era, the competition between the US and USSR for influence over the regimes that ruled the countries of the region was particularly intense as evidenced by the changing affiliations of successive governments in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Over the last two decades the region has developed a reputation as a hotbed of anarchy, terrorism, piracy and chronic instability.

The erstwhile Republic of Somalia is the classic example of a failed state and the cast of warlords, miscreants and Diaspora carpetbaggers that passes for its government (the ill-named Transitional Federal Government [TFG] headed by a woefully miscast and desperately inadequate Quranic school teacher), continue to parrot their lines in the black farce into which Somali politics and government has descended. However, in actual reality, the erstwhile Somalia no longer exists with the ex-British Somaliland Protectorate in the north reasserting the sovereignty it voluntarily surrendered in 1960 to join with the ex-Italian colony to create the Somali Republic, while other regions within it, e.g. Puntland, Galmudug and portions of Juba River region, have successfully established functioning local administrations, even as the TFG farce continues apace in Mogadishu. Most of the country is in the hands of the Al-Shabaab terrorists.

Across the Gulf of Aden, Yemen continues to be bedeviled by widespread unrest due to a host of seemingly intractable problems, viz. an autocratic and authoritarian government that seems to have no remedy for the country’s deep seated problems other than repression; chronic poverty, malnutrition and the highest rates of infant mortality and illiteracy in the Arab World; a deep disconnect between the more cosmopolitan south and the traditional, tribal Bedouin society of the north; and, of course, Al-Qaeda inspired and sponsored terrorism which has found fertile ground in the poverty, political repression and tribal affinity endemic to the country. To this heady brew of socio-political instability, the additional incendiary of sectarian strife has recently been added with the flare-up in of a Shiite Houthi rebellion in the south-western mountains that border Saudi Arabia that ended in an uneasy truce in April 2010.

With respect to the other countries of the region, Djibouti and Ethiopia continue to maintain their relative stability, despite widespread claims of autocratic rule and stolen elections leveled against both of their governments. While it is undeniable that both Omar Guelleh (of Djibouti) and Meles Zenawi (of Ethiopia) have reneged on pledges to step down after a decade of rule and that both leaders are increasingly showing the traits of the ‘strong-man’ style of governance they previously derided, it is also true that political opposition to both leaders has been divided, fractious and ineffective in mobilizing popular, grass root opposition to depose them. Eritrea continues to steadfastly maintain its unenviable position as the North Korea of Africa, with its Stalinist domestic socio-political structure complete with a robust personality cult of Isaias Afewerki – the President. While there does not seem to be any serious, overt internal opposition to the Afewerki regime, the country remains ostracized internationally for supporting the Al-Shabaab/Hizb Al-Islam terrorists in Somalia in furtherance of its policy of confronting Ethiopia. In addition, Eritrea has managed to engineer its almost complete isolation in Africa and the wider international community by a disconcerting willingness to wage war against each of its neighbors.

Sudan managed to snatch diplomatic defeat from the jaws of victory after signing the peace agreement with Southern rebels, by initiating another civil war with its citizens in Dharfur. Thankfully, the Dharfur conflict seems to be winding down, and the people of southern Sudan are on the verge of the referendum to determine whether they will secede from Sudan to form their own country or whether they will remain part of Sudan, as agreed in the said peace agreement (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA]). It is widely expected that the referendum will result in a massive majority for independent statehood, which will underscore not only the history of neglect and victimization which fuelled the long civil war, but also the inexplicable arrogance of the Bashir regime in flouting nearly all of the provisions of the CPA designed to accommodate southern aspirations and bring them into the mainstream of Sudanese governance and politics. Most impartial observers, while supportive of the right of the people of southern Sudan to determine their future, are very wary of the response of the Bashir regime to a resounding vote for independence.

Within this seemingly negative and unremitting overview of the region, there are some significant glimmers of hope that 2011 may witness the opening of a new chapter in the HOA. Firstly, the African Union (AU), particularly the neighbors of Somalia, is edging to a more rational and realistic approach to the collapse of the state in that unfortunate country. The AU and IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development which groups Somalia’s neighbors) have begun to accept the hard reality that the TFG represents no one in Somalia and that it can neither defeat the terrorists of Al-Shabaab nor deliver the peace and reconciliation with which it has been charged. Further, the abject failure of the ‘top-down’ approach to nation-building and national reconciliation, which the TFG embodies in all of its ineffectiveness and failure, stands in marked contrast with the success of the ‘bottom-up’ approach with which Somaliland has established peace, and functioning, representative government with no outside help or interference.

Thus, increasing numbers of countries in Africa have come to accept the reality of Somaliland’s independence, and this as yet unrecognized country can count Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, South Africa, Ghana and Senegal among its supporters within the AU. In addition, in the wake of the Presidential elections held in June this year in which the opposition candidate won and succeeded the losing incumbent in a peaceful and joyous succession, the US and the EU have stated that they will deal with Somaliland directly as a de facto state. In view of Somaliland’s history over the last two decades in establishing the HOA’s only functioning, multi-party democratic government, the de jure acceptance of its nationhood status is surely not far off. In the clearest indication to date of IGAD’s new realistic and pragmatic approach to Somaliland, a senior delegation from the organization visited Hargeysa and held extensive discussions with the country’s new President and government in December. Subsequent to the visit, IGAD issued an invitation to the independent National Election Commission and members of the independent media to observe the referendum in southern Sudan as a Somaliland delegation.

Further, quite separate from recognition of the legitimacy of the country’s claim to statehood and the considerable achievement of its people in establishing peace and rebuilding their country and their lives with their own hands, Somaliland’s emergence from the shadows of international diplomacy has a direct and crucial impact upon the search for a solution to the crisis in Somalia to the south. On the one hand, Somaliland’s assistance in the effort to reconcile the warring communities, while marginalizing the terrorists, will be invaluable since it brings to the table skills and capabilities that no other party can. On the other, recognition of Somaliland’s success in establishing peace, reconciliation, representative government and a flourishing economy will delegitimize the proponents of violence, terrorism and political chicanery in Somalia. The very cautious steps taken by the AU, IGAD, the US and the EU towards bringing Somaliland into the mainstream of international diplomacy, has already stung the beneficiaries of Somalia’s anarchy into action, ill advised and counter-productive though such action has been.

Secondly, in southern Sudan it is widely expected that a new nation will emerge in 2011 in the wake of an overwhelming vote for independence in the referendum. This new nation can become a significant ‘game changer’ with respect to the diplomatic dynamic in the region by introducing a new player that is friendly to Ethiopia and which can exercise significant control over the Nile waters. At present, the stand-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains hostage to various factors, not least of which is the personal distrust and antipathy between the leaders of two countries, however, a crucial factor is the Egyptian policy (which Sudan actively supports) of encircling Ethiopia with hostile neighbors in order to secure concessions with regarding sharing of the waters of the Nile. An independent southern Sudan which is friendly to both Ethiopia and Eritrea would dramatically change this calculus, while also opening the door for this new nation to act as mediator/honest broker between Addis Ababa and Asmara. The major sticking point in the stand-off has seemingly been resolved with Ethiopia’s agreement in 2007 to hand over Badme and accept the rulings of the UN Border Commission in full, yet the two sides remain locked in a sterile impasse. A new interlocutor trusted by both sides could provide the spark required for re-starting the peace negotiations, and a newly independent southern Sudan (possibly with the assistance of an emergent Somaliland) could be such an interlocutor.

The fact is that the HOA is a major global trouble spot and resolution of its deep seated problems will require a huge amount of effort, goodwill and capital (both political and financial) as well as time. The fact is that both international diplomacy and local political mobilizations have important roles to play in this process, and success can only be secured if each is applied/supported judiciously. Thus, the legacy of donor diplomacy in Somalia over the last two decades has been abject failure. The fact is that the route to stabilizing that country and re-establishing the state therein clearly lies in recognizing local, political realities and seeking to bring the success of Somaliland to bear upon the search for solutions in Somalia, and this is beginning to be accepted by foreign powers. Conversely, in Sudan, notwithstanding the long and very costly civil war, it has been the application of sustained international, diplomatic and political pressure on Khartoum that has secured the self determination of the people of southern Sudan.

The hopes for peace and progress in 2011 for the HOA region are clearly and inextricably tied to these two, nascent countries that are emerging into the diplomatic mainstream through disparate political processes. The international community should welcome and support these new additions to global politics and encourage them to play a positive role in stabilizing their tough and troubled neighborhood.

Ahmed M.I. Egal
31 December 2010





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