A Week in the Horn
5 September 2008
The Prevailing Interlocked Peace and Security Conundrum in the Horn of Africa was the title of a Conference organized by the Inter-Africa Group in Addis Ababa this week. The two-day meeting opened with a key note speech from Ambassador Berhanu Dinka from the Forum for the Study of Foreign Policy, an Addis Ababa Think-Tank. It was an outspoken critique which spared no state or government from his comprehensive if brief analysis of conflict in the region. The Ambassador identified a series of issues contributing to regional conflicts including the reluctance of some states to initiate dialogue and discussion, internally and externally, and to listen to grievances. Unresolved internal contradictions were part of the interlocking challenges to peace in the Horn. Ambassador Berhanu noted the need for each state to open up political space for responsible civil society organizations, and for government and opposition parties to work together in good faith to encourage democracy and good governance. The challenges, including environmental degradation and the problems of pastoralist needed a regional response, but as the sources of problems lie within the states, the answers must also be found within each state as well. Regionally, Ambassador Berhanu felt there were some encouraging signs, including the relationship of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya with the TFG in Somalia, and Ethiopia’s relations with Sudan in the last few years. The regional activities of Eritrea, however, remained disappointing and problematic.
Over two days a number of papers were presented on Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia-Eritrea relations and on the inter-related security challenges of Kenya and Uganda. Dr. Martin Rupiya identified four parameters for security challenges facing Kenya and Uganda: the pastoral and cross-border communities; the effects of internal political dynamics; the influence of overlapping regional security structures, including IGAD; and the advantages of military co-operation. A paper from Dr. John Young provided an update to the IGAD Peace process in the Sudan, Gerard Prunier considered the current state of the Problem in Darfur, and Professor Rogaia Abusharaf looked at the role of Sudanese Women Waging Peace. Dr. Young was critical of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and gloomy about its prospects arguing that it had failed to deliver on its commitment to deliver a democratic transformation and that it was doubtful that should national elections take place in 2009 that they would advance the process. He outlined the attitudes of the various parties and the doubts about next year elections. He suggested the peace process was only making progress in the narrowest sense. It had not broken down but it was not laying the basis for a united Sudan, not yet producing any democratic transformation and not providing any framework or impetus for resolving the conflict in Darfur. Professor Prunier expanded on what he said was the collapse of the Darfur Peace Agreement, relating it to the Chadian situation, and, more surprisingly, to the failings of the CPA. He argued that the Darfur Peace Agreement was now dead and that the International Criminal Court’s consideration of indictment of President Al-Bashir had only strengthened Darfur hard line opposition. Any efforts to revive the Darfur Peace Agreement were now merely confusing. In discussion, both papers were criticized for ignoring the Sudanese element, not addressing the vision of Sudan, and concentrating almost exclusively on the view of the victims. No doubt both were unduly pessimistic, and in Professor Prunier’s case almost sensationalist.
Professor Medhane Tadesse dealt with “Peace in Somalia and Neighboring Regions: A Distant Prospect”. He raised concerns over the continual concentration by the international community on the top-down approach to Somali peace-building and state building, suggesting it was time to consider the possibilities of a bottom-up approach more closely. He noted that Ethiopia’s successes in 2006 had been vitiated to a large extent by the weaknesses of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) which meant it had not been the decisive factor that had been expected. Clan divisions and Islamist strength today are as much the result of the civil wars and the statelessness as of any Ethiopian presence or of the international failure. Professor Medhane emphasized the weakness and divisions of all political and military forces in Somalia; the imperfections of the TFG were obvious, but, he noted, the opposition lacked even the intent to contribute to peace and state building in Somalia. Of course, recurrent conflict within the TFG, and political fragmentation within the opposition alliance, make peace prospects distant. Among things to be done, Professor Medhane listed support for the peace accord signed in Djibouti, and engagement with the clan leaders in Mogadishu; to ensure the TFG be reconstituted as a genuine government of national unity capable of delivery; to arrange for an orderly and phased withdrawal of Ethiopian forces; to produce a political strategy to contest the appeal of violent groups. Professor Medhane underlined the critical need for large scale emergency and economic aid to enhance the establishment of a functional government, and to spark decentralized political processes.
Sally Healy, from Chatham House, identified common characteristics of conflict and other features of a “Regional Security Complex” in the Horn of Africa, underlining the way state interactions sustain conflicts within states by outlining the main developments in the Ethiopia Eritrea dispute before turning to Somalia. She highlighted a number of valuable and interesting points including the prevalance of conflict in the region, describing it as a ‘habit’ of war, and the poverty of governance, even the widespread failure of democratic governance in the region. The formulation makes clear the destabilizing role played by Eritrea though she gives Eritrea’s specific role, as a leading supporter of non-state military action, less emphasis than it prehaps deserves. Sally Healy thought that Eritrea’s contention that it has reason to be apprehensive about Ethiopia was understandable. This is, however, very difficult to accept. After the end of the long Eritrean struggle for independence and the fall of the military regime in 1991, the new government in Ethiopia promptly agreed to independence for Eritrea and did everything it could to assist the newly independent state. It put no difficulties in Eritrea’s way and indeed sponsored it on every occasion possible. As Ethiopia has repeatedly made clear, all it wants to do now is to talk, to hold dialogue, as one of the elements laid out in the Algiers Agreements of 2000. A number of errors and ommissions were corrected in the discussion. It was Eritrea which started the war in 1998 (as the Claims Commission made crystal clear), not Ethiopia, and details of Security Council resolution 1640(2005) were clarified. Equally, more could have been said about the efforts of the OAU and other mediators to prevent war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritrea’s refusal to withdraw from areas previously administered peacefully by Ethiopia or to discuss these issues, left Ethiopia no option than to evict Eritrea forcefully. Ethiopia, of course, has said again and again that it will not return to war unless it is invaded by Eritrea a second time.
Sally Healy’s view of Eritrea appears to be rather over-generous and somewhat at odds with reality. Indeed, surprisingly, she even suggested Eritrea appears no less committed than Ethiopia to the Algiers Agreements and continues to affirm its desire to uphold their integrity. Eritrea certainly claims to uphold the Agreements but this claim can hardly be substantiated in the face of its now complete take-over of the Temporary Security Zone and its enforced expulsion of UNMEE, both central elements in the Algiers Agreements. It is indisputable that its actions have been in total violation of the integrity of the Algiers Agreements. It is certainly true that the conflict has had a profound impact on how Ethiopia and Eritrea relate to each other. Indeed they clearly have an entirely different strategic view of the region and their respective places in it. Ethiopia still believes an accommodation with Eritrea can be reached. Eritrea does not. All indications are that Eritrea is now determined never to deal with the present government in Ethiopia, and it continues to devote most of its energy to trying to destabilize it. As Sally Healy notes since 1998 Eritrea has placed strategies designed to weaken Ethiopia politically, domestically or regionally, at the centre of all its policies. This is why it has supported the opposition elements in Somalia, and can be expected to continue to do so. President Issayas recently claimed that “the TPLF regime’s invasion of Somalia” had exposed the Horn region to “further instability”. This incidentally does not mean Ethiopia and Eritrea have been engaged in a proxy war in Somalia. Eritrea, which has no direct national or strategic interest there has perhaps been indulging in a proxy war. Ethiopia, which is engaged there at the request of the Somali government, has its own genuine national security interests in Somalia. Ethiopia is not involved in any proxy conflict with Eritrea in Somalia; it is in Somalia because of Somalis, and its presence has nothing to do with Eritrea.
Sally Healy also looks at the regional and security mechanisms of the Horn of Africa, noting that IGAD, the regional organization has been seriously hampered by regional rivalries. IGAD of course played a major role in the CPA in Sudan, and in the Mbgathi peace process which was held under its auspices, and IGAD has supported the TFG as the legitimate government of Somalia. Until 2005, IGAD was united in its approach to Somalia, even backing unanimously the idea of IGASOM, an IGAD force to assist. Eritrea specifically voted in favor of IGASOM, though it was opposed by the US and others. Subsequently, however, Eritrea objected to Ethiopia’s role and its response, backed by all others in IGAD, to the TFG’s request for assistance against the Islamic Courts. This put Eritrea at odds with IGAD, deepening Eritrea’s isolation. Eritrea suspended its membership of IGAD in April last year. Despite efforts to encourage its return, including the recent mission by Kenya, Sudan and the IGAD Secretariat, it has persisted in its view that IGAD must be restructured to meet Eritrea’s criteria before it will consider returning. President Issayas’s recent comments, at the end of August, underlined Eritrea’s rejection of IGAD. He said the organization had become the victim of external interference in violation of its lofty objectives and must be restructured before it could make any contribution to the promotion of political and security stability.
The conference provided a detailed analysis of the main areas of conflict and of threats to security in the region. It was rather less successful in producing possible answers, though a number of suggestions were made in individual cases including the need for positive action by the international community in support of AMISOM and the TFG in Somalia, and of UNAMID in Sudan. There was general concern about the threat of terrorism, little agreement about how to deal with it. There was consensus on the need to address the conflict in Darfur (even though this had now largely degenerated into low intensity conflict), and on the need to incorporate Darfur into a wider peace process. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan may have major problems but it is still the most plausible way forward for the Sudan. Indeed there are no other possibilities for the moment. There was, however, agreement that the solution to conflicts and security threats in the Horn of Africa must be the responsibility of the members states of IGAD as the regional organization. IGAD states may ask for, and need, external aid and assistance, but in the last resort we ourselves must provide for the solutions which will allow us to aim at the far more serious problems that we face, including our war on poverty, and on the way to acquire what we need for development.