Arabs’ indifference to Horn of Africa could cost them sovereignty over lands and waters, panelists warn

May 25, 2010

The indifference of Arabs and Muslims to developments in the Horn of Africa could cost them their sovereignty over their waters and lands, a panel of analysts has warned.

“The collapse of federal authority in Somalia opened the door to foreign intervention, resulting in the emergence of extremist militant groups as well as piracy. These developments in turn led to 24 countries sending their naval forces to the Indian Ocean,” Aviar Abidi, a political analyst at a Qatari university, said. “As a result of regional and foreign interventions in Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti, Arab interests are at stake. Arabs are going to lose more clout over the Red Sea as well as more land, if they remain as indifferent as they are to the problems of the Horn of Africa,” he said as speakers debated the situation in the Horn of Africa at a forum organized by Al Jazeera in Doha.

According to Abidi, land-locked Ethiopia will always try to find a way to the sea by interfering in Somalia.

The analyst deplored the absence of an active Arab and Muslim role in the Horn of Africa, despite great interests in the region.

“Two African states, Uganda and Burundi, have a greater influence in the Horn of Africa than the Arabs and Muslims because of their military presence in Somalia,” Abidi said, quoted by Qatari daily Gulf Times. “This continued absence will compound the complexity of the problem, especially when influential countries like Indonesia and Turkey are not involved in finding solutions.”
Amir Abdali, the assistant director of the Yemeni Centre for Research and Studies, said that the problems in the Horn of Africa were a result of the complex religious, ethnic and tribal relationships.

“The problems are also very complicated, ranging from piracy, the dispute over the distribution of the Nile River water, as well as the threat of terrorism and the Sudanese problem,” he said.

Reminding the audience that Al Qaeda had declared that it was seeking to reach the Strait of “Mandeb”, Abdali said that the second danger in the region was turning the Red Sea into a hotbed for conflict and terrorism.

“This would increase the chances of the internationalisation of the Red Sea and cost the Arab states their sovereignty over the waters,” he said.

Abdali said that Al Qaeda had succeeded in reaching Somalia and is beginning to export its operations to neighbouring countries to hit US and Western interests, a development that will be used to justify “foreign interventions”.

“Egypt, Sudan, the Gulf countries and Yemen have to wake up and address the problems of the Horn of Africa, or this would lead to more disruption and the seizure of more Arab land as well as the internationalisation of the Red Sea. Israel would become the key player in the region,” he said, according to the paper.

International University of Africa professor Hassan Makki said that the solution to the problems of the Horn of Africa was to leave that region alone, which was impossible in the light of the US military presence in Djibouti and Ethiopia.

“The only way out is to find solutions to the conflict in Sudan. We should put an end to the belief that it is a conflict between Arabs and Africans.”

Makki called for an active Arab role and presence in the Horn of Africa to protect their interests there.

“The situation is rapidly evolving in the absence of Arab countries, with the exception of Qatar, which is trying to solve the problems of Sudan, Darfur and southern Sudan,” he said.


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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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