Cracks in the Horn

Radio Erena: 11 November 2019

The Horn of Africa is facing an existential test as the ethnic clashes threat to sweep its two giants Ethiopia and Sudan. ¨We have to stop these forces who are trying to pull us two steps back while we are going one step forward. ¨ This quote of the Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed made the headlines on the eve of ethnic clashes that left 86 people dead among them Amhara, Oromo, Muslim, and Christian victims as he said. While Pope Francis held prayers for all the victims of violence in that land, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church severely criticized the prime minister as Father Markos Gebre Ezgabher questioned the existence of the government in the face of the rising violence.

Violence broke out at the beginning of this month when hundreds of the supporters of the activist Jowar Mohamad took to the streets to resist authorities as he claimed that a police force planned to disarm his guards and attempted to arrest him. Soon the protests turned into murky violence which led to the loss of lives and property.

Containing such ethnic violence proves to be a hard-hitting trial to the prime minister who received Nobel prize for peace. Some observers believe that he may take a violent course in dealing with violence before receiving his prize in Oslo next month; others even fear that he may go to the Reception Day with protesters´ blood in his hands. Whatever course he may take, the options represent a real test for his leadership.

Be it peacefully or violently, the structures of the federal state in Ethiopia are similarly facing an enormous trial as Sidama regional state referendum is at doors. On the 13th of this month, Sidama region´s population vote in a referendum which- if it succeeds- will grant the actual district a full regional-state status equivalent to that of Oromia, Somali and Tigray Regions.

James Jefferey reported for the New Humanitarian from Hawssa- the would-be capital of the new regional state- that there are increasing fears that residents from other ethnic groups may not be welcome if the referendum ends in favor of creating the newly desired regional state, the matter which may lead to more life-claiming violence and may likewise add to the already vulnerable ethnic situation in Ethiopia, which is expecting a highly tense election next summer. Be it in the present or in the future, the perils facing the Horn of Africa are still looming high.

To the west of Ethiopia in Eastern Sudan, the cities of Gedaref, Kassala and Port Sudan have all- to varying degrees – witnessed tribal clashes which claimed the lives of some of the Nuba and Beni Amer youths. These tribal clashes flourished within the fragile political situation in Sudan after overthrowing general Bashir. The violence was triggered with each party demonizing the other and painting it as alien to the region which also includes the large Beja ethnicity. Many appeared to have benefited from the violence; mainly the remnants of the former toppled regime´s party National Congress Party, which emerged as the main benefactor of the post-revolution destabilized and fragile political situation; the message was forceful ¨we are still here and we are here to stay. ¨ What further complicates the situation in Sudan´s Eastern region is the fact that there are ¨foreign¨ stakeholders behind scene. Eritrea is not far from the tension´s center as it tries to avoid social unrest within its borders similar to the revolution which uprooted general Bashir.

On the other hand, social media users embarked vehemently on fomenting tribal hatred by adding fuel to the raging tribal conflict fires.

The test facing the countries of Horn of Africa is great as fires can easily cross the borders trailing the ethnic and tribal extensions; the matter which requires utmost care and wisdom.

By Fathi Osman





  • comment-avatar
    Snakedoc 4 years ago

    Please stop spreading disinformation about Ethiopia and Sudan as if Eritrea and the tiny region of Tigrai are safe. As for the East Sudanese Beni Amir and Nuba goes, it was not a major problem. It’s was minor incident— However, Esayas the dog and Al Nahyan are meddling in Sudanese local matters… and you’re the mouthpiece for Essayas: shame on you