The Horn of Africa is one of the most complex, diverse, and conflict-afflicted regions in the world. While much of the region continues to be mired in violence and instability, it remains a nexus of global trading routes and is growing in geopolitical importance. The global community cannot ignore its fate.
The Horn of Africa, situated in the easternmost projection of the African continent, comprises the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti; the Greater Horn includes the adjoining states of Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan. Ethiopia is the historical power of the region and has enjoyed recent economic success despite its authoritarian government. Djibouti, though a beacon of economic stability in the region with its gulf ports, suffers from rampant unemployment. The other states in the region—particularly Somalia and South Sudan—are facing seemingly intractable challenges of state formation and development.
The Horn of Africa is marked by porous borders and interstate competition. The inability of central authorities to maintain control within their colonial-era borders has exacerbated ethnic conflicts and precipitated refugee crises. Moreover, states actively support neighboring governments’ rebel groups to strengthen their own regional power. Such instability has provided fertile ground for the growth of terrorist organizations.
There are, however, signs of progress and regional cooperation. The African Union is establishing new infrastructure for African-led peace and security initiatives. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is active in South Sudan’s peace process and negotiations. These security developments, coupled with economic development in some states, could set the foundation for future stability and prosperity.
The Horn of Africa has strategic importance to outside actors. The United States, France, and China have established overseas military bases in Djibouti to protect economic interests and neutralize extremist threats. The region promises to continue to grow ever important in geopolitics and global trade.
Between the time that we recorded and published this episode, there were two developments that we thought we should note. 1) As speculated in the episode, the Somali election was postponed to a later date. 2) The Kenyan government is no longer closing the Dadaab refugee camp.
Take a look at some of our favorite articles that we came across while researching this topic:
- The Horn of Africa – Its Strategic Importance for Europe, the Gulf States, and Beyond, Alexander Rondos, Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development
- Horn of Africa: Webs of Conflict and Pathways to Peace, Paul Williams, Elliott School of International Affairs
- Regional Security in the post-Cold War Horn of Africa, Roba Sharamo and Berouk Mesfin, Institute for Security Studies
- AU’s dependence on cash from the West still rankles, Mmanaledi Mataboge, Mail & Guardian