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Somalia Must Learn to Stand Alone; Before It Can Stand Together With the Rest of the Horn of Africa

Author: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Affiliation: Served as President of Somalia from 2012-2017

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: November 25, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word count:1700


Keywords: Regional Integration, Somalia, The Horn of Africa


Creating a supra-state political entity in the Horn of Africa that would control the Red Sea and the all-important entries to the Suez Canal has always been the longing of superpowers’ geopolitical rivalries. In the 1970s, Cuban revolutionary President Fidel Castro (backed by USSR) proposed to unite Ethiopia, Somalia, South Yemen, and Djibouti to form a Socialist superstate block that would make the Soviets the leading external power in the Horn of Africa. Castro’s diplomacy failed when Ethiopia and Somalia entered into border conflict in 1977, yet the aspiration for an integrated Horn of Africa never died. In the post-Cold War period, the US government along with the regional organization the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sought to facilitate regional integration through deepening economic and trade relations and political cooperation as a means to fight extremism and ensure stability in the region. In light of this, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on the regional integration project since he came to power in 2018. Abiy has pursued rapprochement with Somalia and Eritrea that has ushered in the signing of tripartite agreements for political, economic, and security cooperation among the three countries. While the initiative’s long-term plan is to establish a single unified government and military in the Horn of Africa, efforts of political integration at the cost of national sovereignty are prone to provoke conflict and resultant failure. Currently, neither Somalia nor Ethiopia affords deeper regional integration. Ethiopia has been suffering from deep ethnic unrest and political deadlock with Egypt and Sudan due to its Nile river dam project. Somalia, for its part, has been fragile and politically fragmented, and is swamped by an international network of extremist groups. If conducted in times of peace and security, economic integration in terms of free movement of people, goods, and services could foster mutual growth and prosperity in the region. But enabling such activities under current conditions in Somalia would create fertile ground for the Al-shabaab terrorist group and increase insecurities in the region. Moreover, Somalia leadership’s proclivity towards regional integration has already seeded suspicion among the public as it lacks consultations among all stakeholders. Amid these premature ententes and regional uncertainties, the US government’s commitment to supporting democratization, security, and institution-building has deteriorated to its worst, as culminated in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw its troops. The United States should reconsider its decision of withdrawing its troops from Somalia, which would only encourage the terrorist group. Before thinking about integration, Somalia and its distant partners (mainly the US) should work on democratization, rule of law, and security which are the preconditions for a genuine regional integration project.

By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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