China Stretches Out Its Hands To The Horn
On Monday, June 20, 2022, a two-day Governance and Development Conference winded up in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Xue Bing, China’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa represented his country that sponsored the conference.
Except Eritrea, all the Horn of Africa countries, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti, attended the conference. The reason for Eritrea’s absence is still unknown with certainty.
Diplomats knowledgeable about the conference’s agenda informed Gedab News that China has offered to fund billions of dollars-worth of investments in the region. However, China is focusing on joint projects between the regional countries. In addition, China offered to mediate and help resolve the many disputes that plague the Horn of Africa region.
China’s investments in different sectors in the region’s economy face the risk of failure due to the regional conflicts. And currently, the region is living though the worst cycle of violence as national security and rule of law has almost collapsed in Ethiopia due to the ongoing civil wars.
The Chinese envoy and Radwan Hussein, the Ethiopian prime minister’s national security adviser mentioned ‘external interference” as one of the causes of conflicts.
While Radwan Hussein said, “let’s take the destiny of our region into our hands,” the Chinese envoy explained that “some differences are difficult to understand because they date back to colonial times.”
Radwan Hussein also said “Working in tandem with our partners [on] policies and strategies defined by the region… by taking concrete building measures and mending our differences in order to spare… the region of unwarranted external interferences and undue pressure…”
But the regional countries have always lived under a never-ending cycle of violence and disputes. It has no track-record of taking matters in its own hands or resolving them. The conflicts date back to centuries though since the cold war, it was exasperated by the lack of justice and disregard for human dignity of the citizens ruled by dictators. However, the excuse of external interference is always cited as an excuse for the failing policies and aggressive postures that the politicians of the region are fond of.
The Absence of Eritrea
Several months after he was recalled from his previous post in Germany to travel to Asmara as his country’s ambassador, the appointed Ethiopian ambassador is still waiting for a signal from the Eritrean government to travel to Asmara. Ethiopia doesn’t have an ambassador in Eritrea.
In July 2018, Ambassador Radwan Hussein was called back from his post in Ireland and appointed as the Ethiopian ambassador to Asmara. However, in a move understood as a disapproval of Mr. Radwan Hussein’s appointment, the Eritrean government didn’t allow him to present his credentials to President Isaias for more than a year.
Radwan Hussein has attended the recent Governance and Development Conference in Addis Ababa representing Ethiopia.
Explaining the absence of Eritrea from the conference, a diplomat said, “leaving diplomatic niceties aside, Eritrea doesn’t have a friend in the region to which it belongs or beyond.” He added, “Eritrea wants to use the countries of the region in advancing its narrow agenda and not many countries are interested in that.”
IGADD to IGAD
IGADD (Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development) was formed in 1986 by Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, (Eritrea was admitted in 1993 and withdrew in 1997). In 1996, IGADD was succeeded by IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development). South Sudan was admitted as a member in 2011, and suspended in December 2021, for failing to pay its fees.
The almost three-decades old organization was formed to achieve similar goals to that of the Governance and Development Conference in Addis Ababa that concluded on Monday. According to many observers, IGAD has yet to play a significant role in easing the tensions and conflicts in the region. Even Ethiopia that hosted the conference is overwhelmed by violent ethnic and civil war as ethnic massacres that have been going on for over two years. Hundreds of Ethiopian civilians were massacred in several parts of the country, even when the conference was convening.
The Formaggio Angle
Both Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki have not fully absorbed the blow tthat their tripartite alliance with Mohammed Formaggio received. Last month, Formaggio was voted out and replaced by Hassen Sheikh Mohammed, the new President of Somalia.
The three wanted to replace IGAD by slowly pulling the rest of the region’s countries to their new organization. However, Abiy was focused to use the envisioned alliance to develop and expand his Medemer formula while Isaias wanted an organization where he can have a clout. Formaggio proved he was naïve and a novice thinking Abiy and Isaias would prove to be his formidable allies—his alliance with the two warmongers hastened his downfall.
After the loss of Formaggio, Abiy Ahmed seems to have lost confidence on the alliance. He has displayed a change of heart and arguably has dropped off Isaias whom he has been indirectly criticizing. “He wants to absolve himself from the severe criticism and attacks he is facing from the ultra-nationalist Ethiopian forces.” Ironically, it was the same ultra-nationalists who cheered Abiy up when he joined the tripartite alliance in the last four years; now they are bent on unseating him.