Lost opportunities in the Horn of Africa

– How conflicts connect and peace agreements unravel
(Reliefweb) Executive summary –This report is a study of three peace processes in the Horn of Africa, a region of Africa distinguished by the prevalence and persistence of armed conflict. It deals with the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Somalia National Peace and Reconciliation Process concluded in October 2004 and the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2005. It examines in turn the background and historical context of the conflicts that these peace agreements were intended to resolve. It charts the developments since the agreements were signed, seeking to assess how far they have achieved successful outcomes for peace and stability. The results are very mixed.

The Algiers Agreement continues to provide a framework for relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But it has not created a permanent settlement between the two sides and now seems unlikely to do so. The two instruments created by Algiers to help Ethiopia and Eritrea reach a permanent peace were the Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission and the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). These both appear to have run their course. The two countries have not returned to war. But their fierce enmity has been played out elsewhere in the region, notably through proxies in Somalia. There is no sign of it ending.

Somalia’sMbgathi peace process produced a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that was supposed to establish a transitional government and administration based in Mogadishu. The TFG still exists and is recognized as the government of Somalia in the region. But it has proved quite unable to establish its authority inside Somalia. When the Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu in 2006, Ethiopia decided to install the TFG by force. Since then Mogadishu has been in the grip of a powerful insurgency, part anti-Ethiopian, part Islamist, directed against the TFG and its Ethiopian sponsors. An undersized African Union peacekeeping force is helplessly caught in the middle. Reconciliation efforts pushed by the international community have made little headway. The conflict in South Central Somalia continues to deepen and spread at a terrible human cost, creating conditions that aremuch worse than those that existed before the peace process began.

Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has made progress. The South of Sudan has established its own government and the two sides rely heavily on the CPA text to manage their relations. However, some critically important questions remain to be resolved about the territorial definition of the South and the make-up of the Southern population. The results of the recently completed census will be vital. Slippage in the implementation timetable caused a political crisis and near breakdown in late 2007. Anxiety and lack of trust hinder progress; there is much still to do, including elections, before a referendum on independence for the South in 2011. The failure to reach political settlements on key issues of demarcation

and administration in the oil-rich region of Abyei bodes badly. Lack of political will, lack of capacity, lack of trust and the long shadow of conflict in Darfur continue to pose major challenges.

The prevalence of identity politics and processes of state formation and disintegration are identified as common structural features of conflict in the region. The assessments of the peace processes helped to illustrate the ways in which interactions between the states of the region support and sustain the conflicts within them in a systemic way. The interplay of regional and global interests is especially problematic in a region of Africa where the ‘global war on terrorism’ has some resonance.

High levels of security interdependence exist among the countries of the Horn, suggesting that it constitutes a Regional Security Complex. Historical memory plays an important part in how the states and leaderships of the region understand and formulate security threats. It also impedes the prospects for a more stable security order. The regional institution that should take the lead on conflict management, IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority for Development), is severely hampered by conflict among its member states. In the long term, economic change and growing economic interdependence – an area deserving of further research – seem the most likely drivers of stability.

The study ends with four broad conclusions that have implications for outsiders engaged in conflict analysis or designing conflict resolution interventions:

1 – The need to take account of the long history of amity and enmity in the region as a whole, recognizing that the protagonists of contemporary conflicts experience them as part of a long continuum of warfare. Outsiders have limited influence over conflict dynamics in the region and should set suitably modest goals.

2 – The need to appreciate the problematic nature of the state and its relations with its subjects, especially those on the periphery and in unstable border zones who have long struggled to resist incorporation. This raises some real questions over the applicability of the commonly used weak and fragile state analysis as well as the familiar ‘state-building’ approach to conflict resolution.

3 – The need to see the Horn of Africa as a Regional Security Complex in which the security problems of each country impact on the security of all. The different conflicts interlock with and feed into each other, determining regional foreign policy positions that exacerbate conflict. The regional body, IGAD, is unfortunately too compromised by conflicts among its member states to develop a new framework. Outside actors cannot succeed with a conflict-byconflict approach and need to factor other regional players into their conflict solutions.

4 – Attention must be paid to the influence on the Horn of global agendas. This is a two-way process, with external actors seeking strategic alliances and the regional players courting the attention of the key global players. Conflict has been exacerbated by the insertion of the logic of the globalwar on terrorismin an already complex web of regional conflict. It has polarized parties and reduced the space for mediation. Outsiders interested in mediation need to respond judiciously to the allegations of terrorism levelled against various parties to conflict in the Horn and to seek to develop space for dialogue.

Given the apparent inability of the countries of the Horn to develop a framework for a common regional security order and the limited influence of outsider powers to push successful settlements, the paper recommends a policy approach that:

– Is even-handed in dealing with the states of the region, requiring all of them to conform to the normal conventions of international conduct;

– Prioritizes human security and the need to protect people caught up in conflict;

– Favours local partners, whether states or non-state actors, that protect their people and not those who claim to protect Western interests.

Full_Report (pdf* format – 1.6 Mbytes)

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Posted by on June 24, 2008. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.