The Horn of Africa Deconstructing Ideologies & Reconstructing Political Systems

Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D.

 (Paper presented at the Horn of Africa Conference sponsored by Afrikan Unity of Harlem, February 27, 2006)

This paper will have three component parts: 1) A brief history of the Horn of Africa; 2) contemporary politics and deconstructing ideologies; 3) reconstructing political systems to overcome the seemingly endless crisis of the Horn of Africa.

A brief history of the Horn of Africa: the Horn of Africa comprising of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia is an embattled arena since time immemorial. In ancient times, the Ptolemic dynasty in Egypt, the Aksumites of Ethiopia, and the Persians were contending powers on the Red Sea. Romans also emerged as competing power in this vital and strategic geopolitical theater. There were times (4th to 6th centuries AD) when Ezana of Aksum took over Kush or Nubia (now in northern Sudan) and Kaleb conquered Arabia; the Aksumites were so powerful especially after the 4th century AD and had controlled virtually all parts of the southern Red Sea including the land of the Punt (for Somalia; now a newly declared detachment of Somalia).

In the 16th century, almost eight centuries after the decline of Aksum (this was compounded by the rise of Islam after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 AD) the contending superpowers in and around the Horn of Africa were the Ottoman Turks and the Portuguese and both were involved in the local Horn of Africa politics. In the 1540s, for instance, King Libne Dingil of Christian Ethiopia was routed by an Adal or a Somali, Ahmed Grañ (Imam Ahmed Ibrahim al-Ghazi) who had a distinct advantage of obtaining Turkish muskets. Likewise, the Portuguese made armed assistance to Gelawdewos, son of Libne Dingil and ultimately Ahmed Grañ was defeated.

A century before Ahmed Grañ, however, Somali migrations and the assertion of mini states surrounding the fledgling Abyssinian kingdom had already precipitated the crisis in the Horn. I. M. Lewis succinctly puts the crisis of the Horn at the turn of the 15th century as follows: “We must refer briefly to the prolonged struggle further inland between the expanding Abyssinian Kingdom and the loose congeries of Islamic states including Ifat, Dawaro, Bale and Hadiya, lying to the south of the Christian Amhara highlands. Here our reconstruction of events from oral tradition is supplemented by written records from both Muslim and Christian sources. These show that by the thirteenth century the Muslim state of Ifat which included Adal and the port of Zeila was ruled by the Walashma’, a dynasty then claiming Arab origins. Early in the Fourteenth century, Haq ad-Din, Sultan of Ifat, turned the sporadic and disjointed forays of his predecessors into a full-scale war of aggression, and apparently for the first time, couched his call to arms in the form of religious war against the Abyssinian ‘infidels’. At first the Muslims were successful. Christian territory was invaded, churches razed, and Christians were forced to apostasize [apostatize] at the point of the sword. In 1415, however, the Muslims were routed and the ruler of Ifat, Sa’d ad-Din’, pursued and eventually killed in his last stronghold on the island off the coast of Zeila which to this day bears his name. From this period the Arab chronicles refer to Adal as the ‘Land of Sa’d ad-Din’. This crushing defeat, and Sa’d ad-Dins martyrdom, for his death soon came to be regarded in this light, took place in the reign of the Abyssinian Negus Yeshaq (1414 – 29) and it is in the songs celebrating his victories over the Muslims that the name ‘Somali’ is first recorded.”    

In the 19th century, Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia (1871-1889) fought Ismail Pasha’s Egyptian forces in 1875 and 1876. On both battles, the invading Egyptian forces were defeated. The encroaching Italian forces were also kept at bay and indeed defeated twice by Ras Alula Abba Nega, first at Saáti in 1885 and then at Dogali in 1887. In March 1889, the Emperor led his forces against Mahdi (Sudanese Dervish) forces at the Battle of Metema, and although the Ethiopians won the day, Yohannes IV was mortally wounded and beheaded by the Mahdists. For the latter, the Battle of Metema was both a patriotic and Jihad war.

Yohannes, however, was not only involved in Horn of Africa wars but also in fighting the newly emerging European powers. During this period, the contending powers were essentially France, Italy and Great Britain who had also plans to partition Africa. Russia for the most part was on the Ethiopian side in terms of arming Emperor Yohannes and his successor Menelik II. But soon after the entire continent of Africa, with the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, will fall under European hegemony, and, Italy, the latest comer in the scramble for Africa will acquire three colonial possessions, namely Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia. Apparently, the Somalis will fall under three hegemonic powers of France, Italy, and Britain and the Sudan will initially become Anglo-Egyptian Condominium and later British colony.    

 Ethiopia escaped European colonial onslaught after the Ethiopians had scored a resounding victory over Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. Following the Ethiopian victory, the colonial powers had no choice but to recognize Ethiopia’s sovereignty and moreover, “it did make necessary a redefinition of the interior boundaries between the European held territories and Ethiopia.”  In fact, “arrangements for delimitation began in 1897 when the British negotiator, Rennell Rodd, led a special mission to Menelik, the main purpose of which was to ensure Ethiopian neutrality in the British campaign against the Mahdists in Sudan…Furthermore Ethiopia had recently obtained territorial concessions from Britain’s colonial rivals, the Italians in Eritrea and the French in Djibouti, the latter having voluntarily withdrawn their claimed boundaries by 100 kilometers.”2

However, the tripartite treaty that recognized Ethiopia’s sovereignty and the pretense of delimitation of boundaries between Ethiopia and the colonial territories would not be realized. The agreed upon 1908 convention between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland, for instance, was far from being implemented and on the contrary Italy had plans to invade Ethiopia again. “Since 1930 Somali troops of the Corpo Zaptiė had occupied territory to a depth of more than 150 kilometers inside Ethiopia, a fact that was evidently known but tacitly accepted by the Ethiopian government. In November 1934 the Italians provoked an armed confrontation with Ethiopian troops at Wal Wal, the site of wells regularly used by Somalis traversing the Ogaden in an area clearly inside Ethiopia.”   

In October 1935, thus, Italy invaded Ethiopia from both the Eritrean side in the north and the Somali frontier in the south and by May 1936 its forces captured Addis Ababa and the country will remain under the Italians for only five years. In 1940 Italy entered World War II by declaring war on France and Britain and by default the latter came to the assistance of Ethiopia and by 1941 Italy was defeated and lost its colonial territories. Following WW II the political landscape of the Horn of Africa once again changed dramatically. As noted above, Ethiopia regained its independence in 1941; the British would administer Ertirea for a decade and then by UN resolution of 1950 federated with Ethiopia, and ultimately fully united with Ethiopia in 1962. Sudan became independent in 1956 and following Italian trusteeship Somalia gained independence in 1960. Soon after, however, civil wars broke out throughout the Horn and the first border clash between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1964. The latter conflict was instigated by the Greater Somalia ideology and the irredentism of Somalia and its plan to take over Ogaden.

By the time I wrote an article entitled The Horn of Africa: Conflict and Conflict Resolution in 1997, the long Ethiopian – Eritrean war had subsided and Eritrea had enjoyed six years of independent statehood, but soon a border conflict that claimed at least ninety thousand people will erupt between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Somalia was immersed in six years of fratricidal clan infightings and the Sudanese conflict between the central government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) was already four decades old.

The Horn conflict is complex and complicated because it is compounded by separatist movements, ethnic politics, border conflicts, and clashing ideologies. In most instances, ideology served either as a guiding principle, a vogue, a cover up, or as political expediency. In the case of the Mengistu-led Derg government of Ethiopia and the Said Barre-led Somali government, socialism or Marxism-Leninism served as political expediency because both of them desperately sought assistance from the Soviet Union. In regards to the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRP) that fought the Mengistu regime, socialism was guiding principle although it was dogmatically entertained by the Party and was altogether irrelevant to the Ethiopian reality. As far as the other nationality forces like the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) are concerned the Marxist-Leninist ideology was essentially a vogue at best and a cover up at worst. Either way, the M-L ideology both at the center with the Derg and the nationality fronts at the periphery added fuel and exacerbated the civil war and caused great damage and havoc to the larger society.

With respect to the Somali conflict, as some observers argue the impetus behind is not necessarily ideology but rather colonial legacy and the Somali clan-based social structure. “A new political elite, young and western educated,” says Marc Michaelson, “was nurtured by the colonial administration until the formal transfer of power at independence in 1960…. the combination of the modern and traditional proved a lethal mixture, effectively thrusting Somalia into sociopolitical purgatory. The old structures of order and governance had been compromised and the new systems were fragile and insufficiently institutionalized.” 

The present conflict in Somalia (now entered its 19th year), however, cannot be completely attributed to colonial legacy and western influence only. It is mainly precipitated by clan conflict and self-destructive behavior of the leaders of the various clans. In order to further understand the conflict in Somalia, thus, one must first address the Somali clan structure: 

                                    The Somali Clan Structure




!                                                           !

SAB                                                    SAMAALE

!                                                           !

                        ______!______                                   ______!_______________

Digil                Rahenweyn                 Darod  Hawiye  Isaq                 Dir

                                                            !                                                   !

                                                            !                                                   !

            ________________________!_________________                 !

Marehan          Ogadeeni         Dulbahante      Warsangeli      Majertain !


                                                                        ____________________ !__

                                                                        Cisse                Gadabuursi

 Maria Bongartz writing on clanship and conflict in Somalia contends, “The clan is the highest level of political segmentation and operates within the national political context. In modern Somalia, clans pledge their support to specific political parties which were founded in the 1960s, as well as in the case of the present opposition groups such as the Isaq dominated the Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Hawiye dominated United Somali Congress (USC). An exception is the Darod clan which divides its support among several opposition groups and political orientations. For instance the Marehan section of the Darod is the patrilineal clan of Siyad Barre and the Ogadeeni is his matrilineal clan but the latter partially supports the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM). The Dulbahante clan takes side with the government represented by the President’s son-in-law (Ahmed Suleiman Abudulle), former national security service (NSS)…The Majertain clan dominates the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SNDF)” 

The conflict in Southern Sudan actually began in 1955, a year before independence and continued until 1972 when the Addis Ababa agreement brought both parties for a peaceful resolution. The peace accord and agreement that granted the South some autonomy, however, did not last long. The cause for the violation and ultimate demise of the Addis Ababa agreement was the imposition of Islamic Sharia laws on the Southern people first by the Nimeri regime in 1983 and later by Omar al Beshir. But more than religion, it was the inequality that prevailed between the North and South that ignited the Sudanese conflict. In fact as Raphael Koba Badal discusses, “it was precisely in colonial times that the foundations were laid of regional disparities, of educational and socio-economic imbalances, of a dominant-core area as against the peripheries. The north-central areas were obviously the most privileged. There, the first roads, other basic infrastructures, educational institutions, communication networks, but especially vital socioeconomic development projects were started. In marked contrast to this picture was the colonial neglect of the Western and Southern parts of the country. In the independence period, and as a result of Sudanization, the inheritors of political and administrative power also emerged from this same region.”6  

It is with the above backdrop and historical background that I now discuss contemporary politics and deconstructing ideologies in the context of the Horn of Africa, the second part of my paper:

Contemporary Politics and Deconstructing Ideologies: Currently the Ethiopian-Eritrean wars have subsided and there is indeed relative peace on the border of the two countries, but there is considerable tension between the two States and we cannot for sure guarantee lasting peace. The clan wars in Somalia continue unabated and it is exacerbated by the involvement of Ethiopia in the conflict. In December 2002, in an effort to carefully diagnose the conflict in Somalia, I wrote an article entitled “The Enigma of the Ethiopia-Somalia Relations and the Islamic Factor” and a sequel to this title, “Understanding the Ethiopian-Somalia Relations and Seeking Permanent Solutions to the Conflict in the Horn of Africa” in August 2006. In the latter article, I have argued as follows: “I did not mind reading the various points of view entertained by many discussants on the ‘Somalia Online’. However, due to lack of knowledge of history and their fixation on the differences, rather than similarities, of the Ethiopian and Somali people, their analysis of the conflict was for the most part flawed. At the very beginning of the article (The Enigma…) I stated the following: ‘the peoples of Ethiopia and Somalia have a lot in common when it comes to physiognomy, culture, social organization, and thousands of years of interaction, although this contiguous network was at times uneasy and many times turned into violent clashes.”7     

It is this kind of ideologically bent attitude that we really need to deconstruct. In the same vain but different context, one scholar writes as if there is no connection or commonality among the Ethiopian and Eritrean people, and he argues, “the average Eritrean instinctively feels that he has nothing in common with Ethiopians. He may look toward Addis Ababa for work; he looks toward Asmara for identity and emotional satisfaction.” He further argues, “A national identity, which is the basis and mainstay of amalgamation, it follows, does not exist outside the individual or group and can only be forged by the existence of a common will. Any aspired association between the two countries must, therefore, take these differences into account. No useful purpose would be served by any effort that will not accept these conditions.”8  

It is for this apparent reason that I say we need to deconstruct such divisive ideologies. On the contrary, we must emphasize on the commonality of the peoples of the Horn of Africa. This proposal is not a wishful thinking; it is rather rooted in a historically constituted reality of the Horn. For instance, on either side of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border we find same nationalities or linguistic groups such as the Afar, Saho, Tigray, and Kunama. There is also genetic linguistic connection between the Tigre of Eritrea and the Tigrigna-speaking of both Ethiopia and Eritrea, not to mention the Bilen of Bogos in central Eritrea who are the descendants of the Agaw in Lasta, north-central Ethiopia. These people also share same cultures and religions, Christianity and Islam for the most part.

Same logic applies to other Horn of Africa countries. The Somalis are found in Somalia proper, Ethiopia, and Djibouti; the Nuer and Annuak are found in Ethiopia and Sudan; the Beja or Beni Amir are found in Eritrea and Sudan; the bulk of the Oromo are in Ethiopia and their kin are also found in Kenya. If this is not commonality, what is it? If we focus on the common denominator, the possibility of attaining a lasting peace is great, but if we underscore our differences by ignoring our common heritage, cause, and aspirations, we must acknowledge that we have wittingly or unwittingly embraced permanent conflicts.  I personally do not oppose the celebration of ones ethnic identity in the context of self-determination and the flourishing of local cultures but promoting ethnic politics without due regard to the common interest undermines the peace and stability of the Horn. “The emotional dynamics of ethno-nationalism could breed particular mode of self-orientation that, in turn, sustains generic psychological predisposition, and it could be dangerous if it is permitted to evolve from insipid and innocuous manifestations to the most venomous practices.”9  

The venomous practices that I have alluded to above have happened in Darfur in its grotesque form. John Prendergast writing in the Washington Post says, “During my visits to Darfur in the past few months, I have heard testimony from Darfurians that villages are still burned to the ground, women are still gang-raped by Janjaweed militias and civilians are still terrorized by the Sudanese air force’s bombings.”10

At present the two troubled spots that need urgent and significant attention are Darfur and Somalia. On November 30, 2006 Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the immediate, unconditional cessation of hostilities in Darfur in his message to the Summit Meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Abuja: “Few crises have demanded the attention and energy of the United Nations more than the one that continues to unfold in Darfur. While progress has been made in efforts to alleviate the suffering and resolve the political situation, far more remains to be done if this brutal and tragic conflict is to be brought to an end…The high level meeting two weeks ago in Addis Ababa gave AU (African Union) member states – including, of course, Sudan – as well as Permanent Members of the Security Council, the League of Arab States and the European Union, an opportunity to engage in frank and detailed discussions on the way forward…AU troops in Darfur have performed very well given the demanding conditions, the limitations of their mandate, weak logistical support, and funding difficulties. AU representatives have also provided crucial help in mediating peace talks. We must all do our utmost to build on these significant contributions.”11     

As Kofi Annan has pointed out, African Union’s contribution in the Darfur peace initiative was significant. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was established and in the Abuja Summit, the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC)12 were suggested as complementary component of the peace process. On top of this, the United Nations provided what is known as the African Union Mission in Sudan or AMIS in short. Now, it is renamed African Union and UN Peacekeeping Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). 

In the spirit of the peace initiative for Darfur, thus, the Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA) editorial of August 6, 2007 entitled Darfur Should Exemplify the End of all Violence in Africa reads as follows:

“Admittedly, the title of this editorial manifest an ingenious attempt to blend the best of all wishes, but also reflects the saturation of Africa with violence and hence the end of it. A good place to start for conflict resolution is in Arusha, Tanzania, as has been the case previously. Beginning August 6, the eight Sudanese factions agreed to end the four-year conflict in Darfur; and the government of Sudan, this time, seems to have responded positively to the demand of the rebels, world public opinion, and the UN initiative.

The talks in Arusha, of course, could not be imagined without the UN Security Council resolution to dispatch 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur. In point of fact, the Security Council resolution, although long overdue when viewed in light of the last four years cry by progressive forces all over the world, it is still a significant initiative and never too late. Indeed as the world knows, under the watchful eyes of the Beshir Government 200, 000 people were massacred and some 2 million of them displaced in Darfur. But we should bear in mind that semantics with respect to the definition of genocide is immaterial as long as the conflict in Darfur ends once and for all and underscores a new ethical underpinning to end violence in Africa.

We are hoping that Darfur, after all, will exemplify the end of all conflicts in Africa. This time, it is highly possible that at least the beginning of the end of violence in Darfur will take place because the main actors in the conflict, on either side, are involved in the Arusha talks. In the past, the government of Sudan miserably failed to recognize and include rebel forces such as the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF), the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). By excluding these forces, the Beshir Government entered negotiations with the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), and on the contrary it had unleashed its militias (the Janjaweed) to massacre the people of Darfur. Most observers had the misconception that the Janjaweed were acting alone in the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, but the fact of the matter is that the Janjaweed were fully backed by the Government of Sudan and the latter’s air force employed earth-scorched tactics against Darfur.

Now, we have high hope that the 26,000 UN troops will effectively monitor the activities of the Janjaweed and the mood and unpredictable behavior of the Beshir regime. First thing is first: the UN peacekeeping forces must end all violence in Darfur by fully involving the spokesmen and representatives of the people of Darfur in their own affair. Whatever actions and resolutions are taken without the involvement of the people of Darfur would become meaningless and ineffective. Beyond the people of Darfur, the involvement of other Africans via the African Union (AU) is also crucially important. The involvement of Salim Ahmed Salim as envoy of AU to Darfur, for instance, is a good sign of a noble initiative. Dr. Salim, with his good leadership, will score a lasting peace for Darfur. Ultimately, the peace in Darfur should serve as peaceful conflict resolution for the entire continent of Africa.”13          

That of Somalia, of course, is more complicated. It is not just the civil war that devastated the country for nearly two decades that we must address. The dismemberment of the Somali nation into Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland is another major blow to peace initiatives in that country. While fighting now goes on between the al-Shebab militia and the African Union Peacekeepers (especially after February 2, 2010), Somaliland and Puntland are also engaged in territorial dispute. It looks that the Somali internal conflict is going to drag on with no end in sight unless the Somalis come to their senses and initiate dialogue with the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The AU peacekeepers and the Six-Nation East African Regional bloc also must rethink the war strategy against the al-Shebab and other groups like Hezb al-Islam and initiate a new strategy of constructive engagement. In order for the Somali opposition to participate in peaceful resolution of the conflict and contribute in the reconstruction of Somalia, however, they need to engage in more civil political agenda and abandon harassing their own people. For instance, the Shebab sponsored Jaysh al-Usra (Army of Suffering) and its branch Jaysh al-Hisbah (Army of Morality) that is engaged in planting bombs and imposing Shariá on the people must refrain from such practices.

Reconstructing Political Systems to Overcome the Horn Crisis:  This part of the paper addresses the necessity of reconstructing political systems that are inherently democratic and that, in turn, encourage democratic dialogue and culture and establish democratic institutions. Given the fragile nature of the Horn States and the dictatorial regimes prevalent throughout the region, we cannot expect to witness vibrant democracies under these regimes. When I say reconstructing political systems I am assuming that it is incumbent upon activist intellectuals and scholars as well as professionals to shoulder historical responsibility and practically engage themselves in the construction of new and viable democracies throughout the Horn. We cannot simply brash aside this historical mission and expect the respective governments to do it for us.

Understandably, it is not going to be easy to dislodge the dictators and replace them with democratic regimes overnight but with vision and commitment the mission of establishing democratic systems can be accomplished. Before the Horn of Africa ventures into reconstructing political systems, however, it must learn from other countries experiences including the European democracies, the United States, and even Botswana. In this spirit and solely for this purpose, I wrote an article entitled, What Africa Can Learn from American Democracy and Election 2006 and I stated the following: “The development of democratic tradition in the United States featured historical and social engineering. It evolved historically along capitalist and democratic ideals, but it was also deliberately fashioned and engineered by enlightened statesmen in respective states, and later by the founding fathers at a national level. Though the democratic process in the US was not inclusive (African slaves during the antebellum and women till 1920) and, by and large, had a checkered history, the impetus behind its realization owes to great awakening that seldom appears on the stage of history. Factors that contributed to this historical package are the many visions of enlightened men, citizen and state initiatives, and certainly a heavy dosage of the Age of Enlightenment with its attendant democratic principles and institutions.”14     

More specifically, however, it is the building of institutions that matters. “Democratization is then understood as the building of political institutions, common interests, and new forms of legitimation. Consolidating a democracy requires building political parties and alliances capable of establishing credible national agendas and control of the military, making the security forces accountable to electoral representatives, and crafting a constitutional arrangement (voting rules, distribution of powers, checks on arbitrary action) that will seem fair, open, and in the interests of all major social sectors, including old and new elites.  Democratization emerges from a political process of clash and compromise and consensus building.”15     

The foundation of democratic governance (after Lawrence S. Graham et al) can be emulated from the following six principles tried by the United States and that have endured for centuries:   

  1. Limited Government, or Constitutionalism. Government is created to preserve and enhance basic rights and liberties. It must, therefore, govern under the rule of law, not the rule of personal interest or individual will and it must be limited so as not to violate individual rights and liberties.
  2. Republican Government. What is republican government, or a republican form of government? Basically, it is what today we call representative democracy or constitutional democracy, characterized by popularly elected legislatures in either a separation-of-powers system or a parliamentary system.
  3. Federalism. Federalism divides sovereignty between two levels of government – national and state – so that representation and accountability are divided across these levels.
  4. Separation of Powers (and its corollary checks and balances). Separation of powers is a functional division of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government. It is operational thanks to the corollary principle of checks and balances, a principle that also pervades national and state relations under federalism. Congress is checked by the existence of two houses, by presidential veto, and by judicial review. The president is checked by the requirement for Senate approval of treaties and certain appointments, by congressional policymaking and appropriation of revenues (or refusal to appropriate) for programs, and by judicial review. The judiciary is checked by presidential appointment of judges and by the powers of Congress to impeach and try judges, determine federal court jurisdiction, and fund the courts. Theoretically, the result is a balance of contending claims to power, with no branch gaining excessive power. The different institutions have shared and overlapping functions and responsibilities. The president has significant legislative powers and the ability to be engaged in the legislative process, and the Congress can intervene in executive functions, review executive policy implementations, and withhold approval of executive branch appointments. Such shared and overlapping activities provide both the means and incentives for balancing power.
  5. Constitutional Supremacy. The principle of constitutional supremacy is the ultimate grounding for the rule of law. It provides a basis for resolving disputes of a federal nature or among the separated branches of government (see Article VI).

6. The Independent Judiciary. An independent judiciary is a corollary of constitutionalism and the rule of law. Although the constitution is the supreme law of the land, that statement is not sufficient to prevent Congress and the president from enacting federal laws that violate the Constitution or to prevent states from enacting their own laws that violate the Constitution. Consequently, the Supreme Court exercises its “judicial power” (granted in Article III) to determine whether such acts are constitutional or unconstitutional.16

It is this kind of political system that the Horn of Africa, for that matter the entire continent of Africa, needs if peace, stability, and development are going to be meaningfully realized. This, of course, is not going to take place in a short period of time. It will indeed take some time to implement. In the meantime, the committed African leaders must consider short-term and long-term strategies. The short-term strategy entails preconditions such as peace brokered by the African Union, the United Nations, or other international powers. This should be supplemented by cultural and diplomatic exchanges among the Horn of Africa States. The long-term strategy obviously is the reconstruction of political systems that I have discussed above, i.e. establishing democratic systems and joint regional development programs.

Some scholars have suggested the implementation of federal and/or confederal systems for some states or even for the entire Horn of Africa. While this is a noble idea, at this juncture it is not feasible given the hot-headedness, fanaticism, and narrow national or even clan interests prevalent in the Horn. Before we conceptualize and implement federal or confederal structures, we must initiate peaceful dialogue among the people. The peoples of the Horn must find venue to talk to one another in a brotherly and sisterly manner and then it will become much easier to lay the cornerstone for reconstructing viable political systems.

 Scholars, analysts, and policy makers must carefully diagnose the complex socio-economic and political parameters of the Horn countries individually and/or collectively. Then, they must come up with prognosis (permanent solutions to the problems) of respective countries or the Horn of Africa as a whole. For effective and meaningful investigation of the Horn crisis and suggested solutions, thus, it is proposed that the new leaders incorporate deconstructing ideologies and reconstructing political systems into the corpus of their policies.  


  1. I. M. Lewis, A Modern History of Somalia, Westview Press, 1988, p. 25  
  2. Harold D. Nelson, ed., Somalia: A Country Study, Foreign Area Studies, The American University, October 1981, pp. 14 –15
  3. Harold D. Nelson, Ibid
  4. March Michaelson, “Somalia: The Painful Road to Reconciliation,” Africa Today, Vol. 40, No. 2, 1993
  5. Maria Bongartz, The Civil War in Somalia: Its Genesis and Dynamics, current African Issues II, The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden, 1991, pp. 9 – 10
  6. Raphael Koba Badal, “Sudan: The Role of Religion in Conflict Situations,” Horn Review, vol. 1, No. 1, 1991, p. 30
  7. Ghelawdewos Araia, “Understanding the Ethiopian –Somalia Relations & Seeking Solutions to the Conflict in the Horn of Africa,” Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA), August 2006. To view the entire article click on this link:
  8. Amare Tekle, Another Ethiopian-Eritrean Federation? An Eritrean Perspective, Morris Brown College, August 1990, pp. 5 & 6
  9. Ghelawdewos Araia, “Ethno-Centric Politics and Reinforcing Psychology in the Ethiopian Context,” Ethiomedia, February 25, 2004. To view the Article click on this link:

10.  Jon Pendergast, “So How Come We Haven’t Stopped It?” The Washington Post, 19 November, 2006

11.  See 2006

12.  Ibid

13. August 6, 2007

14.  Ghelawdewos Araia, “What Africa Can Learn from American Democracy and 2006 Election,”

15.  Edward Friedman, The Politics of Democratization: Generalizing East Asian Experiences, Westview Press, 1994, p. 5

16.  Lawrence S. Graham, The Politics of Governing: A Comparative Introduction, CQ Press, 2007, pp. 10 – 11

 All Rights Reserved. Copyright © IDEA, Inc. 2010. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted via

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