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Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa Print E-mail
Written by Imru Zelleke   
Saturday, 17 April 2010
An overview

The geopolitical sphere of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa encompasses broadly the Sudan in the North and West. Kenya and Uganda in the South, in South/East Somalia and the Indian Ocean and in the East the Red Sea and the Arabic Peninsula. The Blue Nile is the major source of water upon which Egypt’s and Sudan’ survival depends. The Red sea is an important sea route for East West commercial and strategic traffic. The Horn contains almost one sixth of the population of Africa. It possesses large natural resources  such as  petroleum, natural gas, hydroelectric power, minerals, agricultural land and last but least a dynamic and industrious human resources.  Its geographic location is of strategic value for peace and stability  for Africa and the World.     

Ethiopia is the major player of the area with over eighty percent of the population, the largest land mass and the greatest economic component. The basic problems affecting the countries of the Horn are simple and well known. They are the classic predicaments of underdevelopment, namely: ignorance, disease, poverty, population explosion, misuse of resources, bad governance, corruption and lack of democratic institutions that allow people to toil freely and improve their lives.

For the last three and a half decades the region has been unstable due to manmade crisis from revolution to tribal and political conflicts and to natural disasters, like drought. The political, economical and social crisis afflicting the region has not subsided yet, and it is likely to degenerate into more extensive internal and external conflicts.

In the hope of stabilizing the region the US, the EU, the World Bank, IMF, multiple donor countries and a number of public and private organizations have undertaken rehabilitating and development programs. Particularly for Ethiopia a large Structural Adjustment Program and over thirty billion dollars of assistance, grants, soft loans, debt write offs, budgetary supplements,  have been given to the country. Thousands of projects have been initiated in the  social, economic and civic sectors of development.

Concomitantly, the respect of Human Rights, the democratization  of the political system and the adoption of a free market economy and the establishment of the Rule of Law, have been encouraged as indispensable conditions for a genuine democratic process. The crucial premises being that a genuine socio-economic development cannot be achieved without the adoption of a pluralistic democratic political systems based on freedom, equality and justice. This far, neither in Ethiopia, that is the largest component of the Horn,  or in Eritrea and Somalia, the outcome of the democratization process has been anything but disappointing, if not abysmal, Somalia has fallen into chaos and Eritrea is into isolation.

Contradicting  policies promoting democratization on the one hand and on the other Donors financial and technical assistance extended to the corrupt dictatorial regimes, have contributed in perpetuating and strengthening the prevailing bad governance and abuse of Human Rights.  New players like China, India, other powers and religious extremists have also come into the scene with massive investments with consequential political interference and clout in domestic affairs. Thus, with the discoveries of large quantities of Oil, Gas and other minerals the region has also become a new bone of contention amongst diverse external powers.

In Ethiopia the TPLF (Tigre People liberation Front) under the ideological guidance of the MLLT (Marxist Leninist League of Tigray - Chaired by Meles Zenawi) has adopted arbitrarly an ethnic based federal system under the umbrella of an all-prevailing monolithic ethnic minority ruling class of its own. Internal revolts and strife’s still continue throughout the country and the area. Somalia had reverted into an all-out clan war, which so far promises an uncertain future. The Sudan is still at odd with the South, and is generally unstable under an Islamic fundamentalist military regime.  Kenya is becoming increasingly unstable and Uganda is struggling with tribal revolts. Human rights violations, persecutions against political parties, stifling of the press and incarceration of journalists, ransacking of the economy and rampant corruption prevail in all parts. Hence, the basic problems afflicting the countries of the Horn remain essentially unsolved, and are exacerbated further by the political turmoil prevailing all over the area.

The perpetuation of these political, social and economic upheavals, in this sensitive area of the world, must undoubtedly involve the concern of the World community, especially of the Western democracies who have, and are investing large resources to stabilize the region.  Unfortunately, up to the present, solutions designed to solve the inherent problems of the countries of the Horn, and generally for Africa, are mostly based on political expediency and the appeasing of momentary crisis and little else. Human and societal causes are not given due consideration in the evaluation of the crisis and formulation of policies. At best, what are taken as forthright evidence, are deceptive rhetoric’s expressed by ruling political factions and their lobbyist with narrow and self-seeking motives.  Public opinions and demands are never sought for by policy makers and would be experts.

Unfortunately, due to the ravages and havoc inflicted on the country by the Marxist Military regime, and the EPRDF ethnic autocracy and mostly because of the ceaseless coercion and harassment by the ruling party, as exemplified by the illegal imprisonment of W/ro Birtukan Medekssa, a leader of a legitimate Political Party, to whom we have dedicated the Honorary Chairmanship of this Symposium,  the opposition parties have not been able to form a strong political force able to challenge effectively the regimes in power. They have neither received any sustained help and assistance by the those parties advocating democracy and the rule of law. In fact they were left on their own to face a totalitarian regime supported by with billions of dollars of economic aid and military assistance.  It is hoped that henceforth this double standard stand and practice will be abandoned and policies directed to the genuine welfare of the people will be adopted.

The countries of the Horn of Africa, in spite of the various national, ethnic and cultural traditions represent a diversified but over-all homogenous geopolitical entity linked by history, culture, religion, economy and geography.  Their future, in terms of social and economic development, hinge’s greatly on  their own regional resources and shared endeavors.  The purpose of this gathering is to give an in-depth understanding of the historic, cultural, socio-economic and political context that make up the area.  It is also intended to give to all stakeholders, an enlightened and comprehensive oversight of the area, in their quest for viable popular democratic solutions.

All said and done we believe unequivocally that given the opportunity the people of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, will vanquish all the momentary ills that are afflicting them at the present, and will build a free democratic system of governance that will guarantee freedom, justice and a prosperous future for their people.
 
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