The Horn of Africa Strategic Environment; An Analysis

Situated along the eastern parts of Africa, the Horn of Africa region comprises of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, South-Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti with Egypt and Yemen being drawn into the security complex due to their interest and involvement in the region. The region forms part of a much intertwined conflict system better described by security strategists as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA). This sub-region is diverse and its geo-strategic location has resulted in competition and animosities between different local and foreign powers over time. This article critically analyses challenges facing the implementation of IGAD‟s Peace and Security Strategy.

These dynamics according to Getachew have led to the development of a culture of violence based on the tradition of origin, a fixation with territory, a feudal vision of the exercise of power and an absolutist conception of conflict. As such, the nations within the region have usually pursued political and development strategies that ignore the socio-cultural affinities and the economic interdependence between their citizens. This deep attachment to the territorial concept of nationhood and their reluctance to explore the potentials offered by sharing of a common heritage has discouraged the development of coherent policies of sub-regional integration that would promote peaceful co-existence.

The conflict epicenter of the region is never static, currently being in South-Sudan courtesy of the SPLA wars, having shifted from Somalia which is still volatile coupled with insurgencies and the war on terror. On a positive note however, there have been great strides courtesy of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mechanisms. These efforts are aimed towards finding lasting solutions to the general problems that uniquely bedevil the region.

The organization has involved itself in trying to resolve instability situations, building of regional mechanisms for the enhancement of economic and social integration, trade and peace building. IGAD in its wisdom initiated a peace and security strategy in 2010 as a proactive measure to mitigate the insecurities around the region and currently is implementing a post 2014 IGAD Peace and Security Strategy. The IPSS is seen as a forerunner to a regional peace and security architecture and a panacea for peace and stability in the region. However, despite these heartening efforts, the regions complex milieu remains heavily burdened by severe social, economic and political connotations of localized conflict, poor governance, economic backlog and prolonged adverse climatic conditions that have implications on the future stability of the regions security, overshadowing the overall advances achieved.

However for the situation to be salvaged, proper functioning and implementation of mechanisms in place should be adhered to the latter. This include, the IGAD Protocol on Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution (CPMR Protocol) which should shun the non interferance clauses and allow EASF to intervene in the internal affairs of a member state on behalf of IGAD in the event of a serious and massive human rights violations, an unconstitutional change of government; or under the principles of Responsibility to protect.

Since the region has served as a theatre for proxy wars both during the Cold War and more recently in the global war on Terror, the region’s statesmen should not lose sight of the fact that external powers have good reason enough to engage in acts aiming at frustrating the attainment of the peace and security. The looming international competition over natural resources such as fish in the waters off the coast of Somalia and lake Victoria, the strategic waterway of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, oil in the Sudan, and the Nile River Reparian promises a continued strategic interest and challenge from powers external to the IGAD states.

Within the security strategy, room must be made for anticipating and meeting the security challenges of the future. Recently, serious, gross, and systematic human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, electoral violence, transitional justice, on and off-shore terrorism, and the unlawful use of marine resources have emerged as key threats to human security in the Horn of Africa. As such the available peace and security strategy, together with the post 2012 conflict early warning mechanism should be utilized as effective conflict prevention tools for addressing these threats.

IGAD’s peace and security strategy realized the fact that it cannot afford to overlook the modern approach to security that emphasizes the security of people and the nonmilitary dimensions of security; the creation of forums for mediation and arbitration; the reduction in force levels and military expenditure; and the ratification of key principles of international law governing inter-state relations. In other words, it endeavored to understand security in ways that incorporate political, social, economic and environmental issues.

An effective peace and security strategy must be underpinned by a dual understanding of security and a more progressive conceptualization of peace beyond absence of physical violence. This has been lacking as policy makers remain stuck in state centric approaches and continue to subordinate human security. Yet insecurity dilemma cloud the environment of the region. Member states must also take it upon themselves to respect and implement the commitments that they make. As such, a regional peace and security strategy can only be as good as its building blocks. In a situation where states are the main generators of threats to peace and security within and outside their jurisdictions, it is naiv to expect the startegy to be effective and efficient. A true regional peace and security strategy will only be possible if members deal with the basics such as good governance, respect for human rights and other measures which consolidate states‟ legitimacy and builds human security.

Further, the regional structures created must be equipped with the right mandate and resources to undertake their functions. The starting point should be willingness to cede some sovereignty to such organisations. Member state should do so through compllying to and fully implementing the IGAD Peace and Security Strategy (IPSS), which according to Mwagiru is critical, for it provides a roadmap on where the region intends to go in the context of security.

States must be willing to pay the costs, political, financial or otherwise necessary for the implementation of the strategy and subsequently staff IGAD to the required levels. IGAD need to critically evaluate and re-invent its relevance in the Horn of Africa because there are competing and overlapping regional organizations with peace and security mandate. To do so members must radically re-orient IGAD towards specialization on Peace and security since it has superior competencies compared to other regional economic organizations especially the East African Community (EAC). In addition, and if necessary, IGAD, EAC and EASF need to merge and form a common economic, foreign policy and security strategy to minimize loose ends.

In conclusion, despite the challenges faced, the quest for an effective peace and security architecture in the IGAD sub-region should continue. Developments such as the largely successful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement leading to the independence of Southern Sudan show the fact that IGAD in concert with other actors is capable of enhancing regional peace and security. By addressing the gaps discussed earlier and taking into consideration the recommendations made, states, communities and individuals in the sub-region can look forward to a future different from the past and present.

Author: Kisame Charles is the Founding Fellow of Polad-House. A Policy and Security ThinkTank/Counsulting firm