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Political Change in the Horn of Africa

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, Ethiopian PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in Gonder, Ethiopia


Political Change in the Horn of Africa

By: TTT Asmara – Eritrea.

Political change is a process that happens at a certain given time upsetting the statuesque of a prevailing situation. It is a gradual phenomenon affecting a society or societies economically, politically socially and culturally. Hence, when political change materializes it is natural that the advantaged and disadvantaged classes exchange positions as well as privileges. As a resident of the Horn of Africa, which is termed as volatile due to its political instability, has given me a wide range of opportunity to experience the consequences of such changes.

What had been transpiring in the Horn of Africa from the last half of the nineteenth century to the present day is what I think enough to portray the volatility of the region. Prior to that there were many Kingdoms, Sultanates ... etc. operating not only in limited areas but also with interrupted and discontinued reigns that do not correspond with the present sovereign nations of the region. The nature of politics of that era could best be described as ‘’Kingdoms, Sultanates, Empires … etc”., would expand their territories when they acquire military competence and collapse when they lack such might and organization’’. Therefore, might which had never been controlled by one/same group had been the determining factor of power in the region as happened anywhere else. Therefore, the simultaneous existence of different kingdoms, Sultanates, Bahre Negashes, Aba Ghedas … etc. shows nothing more than there was no effective centralized rule before the scramble of Africa by the colonizers.

It is only at this juncture that the present sovereign nations of the region with the exception of Ethiopia, fell under different colonizers. Despite the Berlin Agreement (Scramble for Africa) it became apparent that interest of each and every colonizer was expansion of territories for mammoth exploitation of human and material resources. As such youth military conscription was a must and therefore, at the outbreak of WWII British combatants were largely comprised of Indians, Sudanese, South Africans … etc.; while Italian troops consisted mainly of Eritreans and Somalis. The first bitter experience of political change for my generation was the horrible war consequence witnessed by our parents who survived the bloody wars serving the colonizers. The victor take it all while the underdog abandon everything and accordingly the British after WWII became the new masters in the Horn of Africa replacing the Italians while the French retained Djibouti as their colony.

Some of the significances of this political change to the citizens of the emerging Horn of Africa nations was exposure to the outside world, the inception of nationalism, the experience of modern governance and demarcation of their borders. As a result Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan became independent nations. However, Eritrea’s faith as a colony of Italy remained politically complicated due to the British denial of its right for independence plus the UN’s rejection to address its quest for the same in accordance with its decision for colonized nations.

This scenario created a state of havoc for decades in the Horn of Africa in general and in Eritrea and Ethiopia in particular. The main contention was Ethiopia’s expansionist desire due to its appetite to acquire sea outlet and Eritrea’s die hard fight to regain its denied national sovereignty and dignity. In short, the decades long war between Eritrea and Ethiopia until it culminated by the independence of the latter, the border war that followed, civil war in the Sudan that gave birth to South Sudan and the civil war that followed in the Africa’s youngest nation, two massive border wars between Ethiopia and Somalia, not forgetting the skirmishes that take many lives every now and then, the cross border battles fought between Ethiopia and Sudan as well as Ethiopia and Kenya ethnic groups … etc. are examples that the Horn of Africa nations have to learn a lesson from. The prevailing poverty, ignorance, under-development of the Horn of Africa nations is the consequence of the above mentioned actions of the short sighted political leaders that reigned at different times.

Why do wars that kill thousands of people and destroy property and resources that could develop nations continue in the Horn of Africa? Who should stop these wars? How do we make peace among our nations? For how long should the Horn of Africa nations remain to be a laughing-stock of others simply by not solving their difference?

Priority of national interest and showcase of power remain the top conflict sources between nations. In addition exploitation of resources and authority abuse for individual, family and group/party advantages exasperate domestic uprising and war with neighbours. Therefore, far sighted and visionary leaders whose priority is the peace, prosperity, unity, and development not of their personal fame but of their people and nation as well as understanding that their nation will never grow or develop alone, are the ones who will bring the needed political change in the region.

The region has suffered from political leaders who make alliances today and conspire against each other tomorrow. At times feeling mighty by foreign assistance and advice they send their citizens to war without being accountable for the human and material lose caused. Allow foreign forces to exploit resources with minimal restrictions depriving their citizens economic advantage and worst of all trust foreigners more and deposit millions and these days trillions of looted public money in foreign banks. Proud to be called democrats where they are autocrats who butcher their citizens in broad day light and open streets. Have a mindset that is outward not inward looking forcing them to adapt policies that are far from self-reliance. Such leaders have lost opportunities that would have advantaged and influenced the region’s population positively.

Today political change is engulfing the Horn of African nations. Cooperation and partnership is blossoming after Eritrea and Ethiopia who have become the pioneers of regional partnership signed a Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship on 9 July 2018 overcoming their long standing political antagonism. This happened after EPRDF reorganized its leadership and elected a new PM who automatically decided to accept and implement the pending Algiers Agreement as is; terminating the long standing political hatred between the two nations. One of the strategic political objectives of Eritrea’s foreign policy is to create an integrated economic cooperation in the region and towards this end it had been seeking true partners. Its first attempt with the TPLF dominated EPRDF of Ethiopia was aborted after several years. Now a new elite of EPRDF leadership has emerged discarding the warmongering attitude of the old guards. Thus, two like-minded leaders are determined to make history by integrating their natural resources for common development. That is why Eritrea and Ethiopia, represented by President Isaias Afewerki and PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed respectively signed the above mentioned Agreement that is being implemented with immediate effect. As a result the Horn of Africa is witnessing a wide range of promising changes surprising everyone. Some of the remarkable changes can be summarized as follows:


  • Ethiopia’s readiness to accept the Algiers Agreement as is and Eritrea’s approval for the move terminated the state of war that was hovering for two decades and opened timely opportunities for the common man.
  • To ease tension and relax the atmosphere communication services were opened.
  • Diplomatic ties was reactivated by opening embassies and appointing ambassadors in both capitals.
  • Eritrea made its ports accessible for Ethiopian trade and both national airline carriers started to transport people to and from both capitals.
  • All land border posts were opened and Ethiopians as well as Eritreans started to enjoy the free movement of people and goods.


Encouraged by the progress accomplished, Eritrea and Ethiopia invited Somalia to widen the sphere of cooperation where the latter readily accepted and the trio cooperation agreement was signed on ……… 2018 in Asmara – Eritrea. Then Ethiopia and Somalia rushed to look for a solution to resolve the Eritrea – Djibouti border dispute and to add the latter in the membership list of the agreement. Thereafter, the interaction of successful diplomatic approaches played by Ethiopia and Somalia was a useful instrument that broke the tense tension between Eritrea and Djibouti; where the latter further arranged to amicably settle the existing dispute. In the long run this Cooperation Agreement is expected to include South and North Sudan and may expand beyond those countries in Eastern Africa.

The prevalent political change is a sweet honey for some and a bitter poison for others who become deadly supporters and opponents of the new order. As such while the proponents of change will restively fight to enforce their vision fully understanding the obstacles that would come from different angles; the adversaries who had lost all their political advantages will in the other hand fight back to reinstate the statuesque they had lost.

However it is a historic fact that the old system is negated by the new one and there is no point of return as the people of the Horn of Africa are conscious of the opportunity at hand and will adamantly support the political change. Therefore, we (the citizens of the Horn of Africa) have an uncompromised duty to resolutely stand in support of the change at hand that intends to bring about peace, stability, equality and justice which are the foundation for prosperity and development. This scenario alone is anticipated to alter the foreigners’ mindset on the region. It is also worth mentioning here that, the positive action and support of the international community for the rapid regional change without which remnants of the loser class would have caused minor disruption on the process of change, is crucial. The gesture of care furnished by the international community coupled by regional enthusiasm and participation to fulfil the ongoing goal of political change is beneficial not only for the region but also for the world at large. Therefore, joining hands against the axed class and its agents in this respect is an urgent call of the day.




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