19 May 2007 04:27



An academic conference without officials
The conference destined to debate the possibility of a confederation between the countries of the Horn of Africa, which took place the 14 and 15 of November in Tampa, Florida, (ION 1011), stayed limited to the academic world. None of the American officials invited (the secretary of state, Colin Powell, no more than the senator Bob Graham) were present. For his part, the deputy director of East African Affairs at the state department, Zachary Teich, did make the trip to Tampa to take the podium during the conference, but he indicated that he was participating as an alumnus of the University of Florida (co-organizer of the event) and not in the name of the American government. The latter didn't have any firm position on the idea of the Horn of Africa confederation, and Teich considered that there were a number of obstacles barring the road to making such a regional entity concrete. Elizabeth Keraly Onjoro, the senior administrative official of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel, also took part in the conference, which had about 130 participants the first day and 100 the second, the majority of which were USF students. The conference, wiith the active participation of the poet Tsegaye Gabre Medin and the former Zambian president Kenneth Daunda, concluded with a recommendation in favor of creating an Institute of East African Studies. Two American citizens of Ethiopian origin, Kidane Alemayehu and Fassil Gabremariam conceived the conference. The former worked as an expert for the municipality of Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in the late 1990s, while the latter was vice-president of the company Intermedia Communications Inc. and president of the Tampa Port Authority. Fassil Gabremariam is also the founding president of the United States-Africa Free Enterprise Education Foundation, and since late October 2002 he is the new chairman of the board of directors of the Tampa Zoological Society.







     The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States have abruptly shifted the focus of national security issues for all nations. Those recent events are tragic reminders of the global reach of terrorism in today's world and point out the need to reaffirm and strengthen long-term, strategic partnerships and cooperation among nations as we seek to advance a shared vision of peace, prosperity and sovereignty. Now more than ever, nations are seeking integration into the global economy and the comity of democratic nations. There is also a renewed commitment to cooperation on counter terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, free market economic reforms, and development of energy resources. However, the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction endanger the security of the entire world. Democracy and multilateral collaborations represent the cornerstone of long-term economic and political stability for us all. The resulting free market economies and the rule of law provide the most effective means to advance the welfare of citizens and the stability of societies throughout the world.

     One lesson learned from the Afghanistan experience is that the fundamental roots of terrorist activity must be dealt with firmly and in a timely fashion to prevent similar tragedies in other parts of the world. Greater attention must be paid to regions where potential problems are already brewing if we are to avert future disasters.
One of the regions that requires heightened international attention and vigilance is the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti) because of its obvious geo-political significance. With a population of nearly 100 million, the Horn of Africa is of immense importance to the international community. The headquarters of the Organization of African Unity as well as the Economic Commission for Africa are situated in this volatile region. In addition, it is bordered by the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean and is proximate to the oil producing countries of the Middle East. Clearly, the Horn of Africa is situated in a highly sensitive zone that could significantly facilitate or disrupt global logistics and commerce.

Previous devastating wars and continuing tensions among the countries in the Horn of Africa continue to wreak havoc on the area's economy and restrain international investments to the region. The current political climate is fraught with mutual suspicion, having dire consequences for orderly governance and socio-economic development. In most cases, cooperation and mutual support have given way to acrimony, distrust, and sporadic hostilities.
Left unattended, the situation in the Horn of Africa could degenerate into a major international disaster, thus posing grievous peril to the international community. The situation in Somalia could easily turn into a breeding ground for groups dedicated to international terrorism. Despite the multilateral agreement following the war that devastated the sub-region and resulted in 100,000 deaths, the tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea continues to threaten the area's economic and political security.
Unless the international community takes action, the resulting unrest could have far reaching and catastrophic consequences. Alternatively, with the required attention and support, the region could contribute significantly to world peace and development. Perhaps now is the time to consider a bold new approach that would bring peace and prosperity to the region
As Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, stated in his report to the United Nations Security Council, "Conflict and peace cannot be addressed in isolation, but must be approached with a more comprehensive perspective." He added, " Such a perspective would take into account not only the complex roots of conflict, but also the need for good governance and sustainable development, which help provide the conditions for lasting peace." (Africa Recovery, 1998). Also, a US Government document on the Horn of Africa states that members of the international community have reaffirmed their commitment to this region and that a renewed effort is needed to collectively institutionalize a new partnership in the region. (USAID, 1994).
To achieve stability and development in the region, the establishment of a Horn of Africa Confederation (HAC) deserves serious consideration by the international community. Such a Confederation could focus sustained and integrated attention not only on conflict resolution but also on mitigating the environmental, economic, and social crises of the region. The HAC could develop policies to allow the growth of technical and research cooperation, the liberalization and harmonization of trade policies, the promotion of intra-regional infrastructure development, the fostering of food security, and accelerated industrial development. The HAC could be a very useful building block for realizing the objectives of the African Union while strengthening sub-regional institutions such as IGAD and COMESA. The establishment of a confederation among the Horn of Africa countries could yield immense benefits for the people in the region as well as for the international community:

  • UN statistics indicate that within the first quarter of this century, the population of the Horn of Africa is likely to exceed 125 million. The opportunity provided by such a huge population for substantial internal and external trade is self-evident, provided a good measure of stability is maintained.

  • While the Red Sea currently divides adjacent countries and is utilized mostly to facilitate East-West trade, opportunities could be enhanced for much more substantial commerce and economic cooperation between the Horn of Africa and southeastern Arabia and beyond. This point is particularly valid given the natural resources on either side of the Red Sea that are complementary: human, agricultural and water resources on the Horn side and oil on the other. It is conceivable that there might be an eventual establishment of a Red Sea cooperative council comprising the Horn of Africa countries as well as Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and perhaps even Israel.
  • An improved economy fueled by lasting stability and cooperation in the Horn of Africa could save the international community hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise be directed to technical assistance as well as for the maintenance of security in the region.

  • The substantial human, financial and material resources being deployed by the Horn of Africa countries for defense purposes (primarily for wars against each other) could be utilized instead for the much needed socio-economic development including the improvement of agriculture, industry, water resources, infrastructure and trade.



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