Geopolitics and Conflicts in Eastern Africa
From the protracted crises in Sudan and Somalia to the border face-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea, to the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008 and the fragile grand coalition government that followed, Eastern Africa is wallowing in conflicts.
The region is steeped in conflicts and the threat of both full-blown cross-border and internal warfare is ever present and even scares away investors and potential tourists.
Somalia’s case is far worse than that of Darfur. It has had no government for two decades, and has virtually no infrastructure, waterworks or national electricity grid.
Refugees are far beyond its borders, attacks are frequent, piracy is the order of the day and the distressed population is over three million people.
Rwanda has however emerged from its genocide of 16 years ago a much more resilient and forward-looking nation that has embraced 21st century solutions. Kigali is now collecting international accolades.
Financial Times has selected President Paul Kagame as one of 50 people who shaped the destiny of their countries. Rwanda leads the region in progress towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania are still struggling with their internal dynamics. Internal attacks are very common in Uganda and Burundi while Tanzania’s internal problems revolve around economic challenges.
However, Tanzania is rated as the most peaceful country in the region. It hosts the headquarters of the East African Community in Arusha town.
Ethiopia and Eritrea experience enormous economic and humanitarian challenges. However, they are still pursuing a border dispute as Asmara regime kicked out the United Nations peacekeeping force and thus complicated concerted diplomatic efforts in the region.
In Kenya, the dust of post-election violence is yet to settle while the new constitution referendum campaigns are on top gear and the international criminal court process against post-election suspects is around the corner.
In Sudan, the ICC has issued an international arrest warrant for President Omar el Bashir over the crisis in Darfur province, but Southern Sudan is still one of the world’s crisis flashpoints, especially as it approaches the 2011 referendum.
These regional internal and cross-border instabilities, displacements and terrors are connected to larger conflicts elsewhere, with Al Qaeda allegedly fleeing their Pakistan cells to Somalia.
East Africans should be emulating the economic success of Brazil, India and China instead of engaging in stupid, senseless and costly conflicts.
Bad governance, small arms and light weapons proliferation, drug and gun-running and humanitarian trafficking wedded conflicts and global criminal networks have a theatre of displacement, mass murder and backwardness.
There is no doubt that insecurity in the region has retarded development, bringing misery to millions and casting the region as an area prone to humanitarian crises.
The region should be able to accept and face the challenges without any fear. It should also engage and promote the services of Intergovernmental Authority on Development to spearhead peace initiatives instead of blaming each other unfairly on security issues that could be effectively tackled jointly.
If Eastern Africa is to speak with one voice, regional integration should be the basis of bringing the people together into one platform. Eastern Africa must integrate in order to survive.
Therefore Eastern Africa is at the beginning of a long process of integration. It is complex. It is critical and needs political will in order to succeed. It should also be ready
fight against clandestine activities that are bound to destabilize the regional security.
East African region does not operate in isolation. It is one of the regions in Africa and it has to work within the framework of African Union and other regional blocs.
There are also several powers competing for strategic interests in the region and international organizations also influence socio-economic and power politics in the region.
With many players competing for political space and influence in the region, Eastern African countries should identify their development cooperation priorities and regional security interests.
The politics of the west and eastern countries should not be allowed to divide the region which is in dire need of peace, security and stability in order to forge ahead with development concerns and uplift the people’s living standards.
That time is now. Somalia should be assisted to wake-up from the political turmoil and the economic pitfalls since it is significant in the regional development.
Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia should now be talking on how they can join the East African Community envisaged to be the uniting factor in the region and the engine of development growth.