Instability and Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the US, and UK

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently tweeted about “the volatile Horn of Africa.” The tweet provided a link to an interactive map presenting discussions of Regional Overview, Somalia’s Instability, Transnational Issues, and Armed Forces in the Region. Although useful, the CFR’s analysis fails to identify several of the key factors influencing instability in the Horn of Africa.

Briefly, while the CFR notes the harmful influence of Al-Shabaab, it should more clearly describe how and why Al-Shabaab arose. Doing so would reveal that, far from Somalia, Al-Shabaab’s rise, consolidation, spread, and ongoing attacks can be better attributed to failed policies originating in the US, as discussed by noted independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

As well, Professor Vijay Prashad, a distinguished scholar, has outlined how the West’s catastrophic approach toward and meddling within the region has helped fuel the rise of Al-Shabaab:

Additionally, in its discussion of the “strife” in Somalia, the CFR should delve further and note the toxic role of Ethiopia within the situation, supported financially, militarily, diplomatically, and politically by the West (especially the US and UK). Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, MP George Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK):

Last, the CFR erred in its use of phrases such as “border tensions” and “border dispute” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Instead, the CFR should have described the situation for what it is: an illegal military occupation in direct violation of long-accepted international norms and laws. Furthermore, the reference to dispute suggests there remain disagreements about the border. Rather, the dispute was settled long ago through a “final and binding” international judicial process, and only one party (i.e. Ethiopia) fails to implement. Instead of seemingly downplaying the gravity of this particular issue, the CFR would be better in noting that an end to the occupation would go a long way to normalizing relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa and, in the process, improving  overall stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

These are just initial, brief (and humble) thoughts in response to the CFR’s tweet and analysis. The CFR does well to note the importance of the Horn of Africa to broader geo-political and regional stability and security. However, within this context, it is imperative that analyses of the situation and region consider all factors and reveal uncomfortable truths.


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