Cautious optimism for the Horn of Africa's geopolitical woes

Despite some recent momentum in the region, however, looming climate catastrophes require far more stable administrations

Violence has wreaked havoc across Ethiopia during the past two years. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A terrible fact of climate change is that so many of the places set to be affected the most and the quickest have the least capacity to prepare. Several countries in the Middle East are prime examples, as are the states in the Horn of Africa.

The region is home to roughly 11 per cent of Africans, and some of the continent’s most volatile states. The UN Population Fund estimates that more than 36 million people there have been affected by one of the longest and most severe droughts in recent history. It is expected to continue well into next year. Millions more are facing crisis levels of hunger.

Even the most stable governments around the world are scrambling to mitigate the dangers of climate change. The situation is made far harder when politics is unstable. A civil war began in Ethiopia in November 2020. And while a ceasefire was struck last month, hundreds of thousands of civilians died or were injured in the violence. The fighting also threatened Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, and its diverse, ancient culture. It came as the country was battling Covid-19, drought, locust swarms and a food crisis.

Sudan, meanwhile, has been in political turmoil since the ousting of its former president Omar Al Bashir in 2019, despite his departure being a hugely important and positive development for the future of the country. His problematic rule might be gone, but economic turmoil and mass protests are not.

And Somalia, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, is also one of the most vulnerable to terrorism. At the end of November, 14 people were killed in a hotel siege carried out by the Al Shabab terrorist group that once controlled the capital Mogadishu and continues to aspire to establish an extremist state in the country.

Tensions remain high in Ethiopia, a number of high-profile experts have consistently said that the conflict does not get as much attention as other wars and more than 5 million people face starvation because of fighting, according to the World Food Programme.

Terrorism has blighted Somalia for years and will be hard to root out, particularly as the government struggles with high levels of internally displaced people and ongoing political infighting.

But there are signs of hope in the region.

Ethiopia’s ceasefire, a result of mediation by the African Union, has a greater chance of lasting following reports on Sunday that most Tigrayan forces, who were fighting government troops, have withdrawn from front-line positions.

Sudan’s ruling military-civilian coalition, too, have signed an agreement. Many in the international community hope it will restore the country’s peaceful transition to civilian rule. The UAE, for one, welcomed the agreement of an initial political framework reached by Sudanese parties to complete the transitional period, with Afra Al Hameli, the director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, expressing "aspirations for a peaceful and successful political transition in a way that enhances stability and brings prosperity and development to [Sudan's] people".

But much effort is needed to win the peace and secure a stable and prosperous future for Sudan’s people. Today, almost a million more people are in need of humanitarian assistance than last year. The overall number is at least, 14.3 million, according to Acaps, an NGO. This is the time to support the Sudanese people.

The leaders of the Horn of Africa should pursue the urgent priority of building political stability as soon as possible. Only then will the region be able to put its best foot forward in an uncertain, tough future. For now, all those who can should support the positive momentum witnessed in recent weeks.

Published: December 07, 2022, 3:00 AM