The Horn of Africa States: Rebranding ‘IGAD’ as ‘HAS’

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IGAD stands for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. It is a product that resulted from rebranding an earlier organization called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD). It was created in 1986 in Djibouti as a multinational body by the SED countries of the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti) and three non-Horn of Africa countries, namely Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. In 1993, it was joined by Eritrea, another Horn of Africa country after obtaining its independence from Ethiopia. This then converted the SED countries to SEED countries an acronym for Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, and increased the number of countries in the organization from six to seven.

The original concept of the IGADD was designed as a multinational organization to deal with droughts and desertification issues in the Horn of Africa. The region suffers from recurring droughts, monsoon shifts and other climate change factors that cause widespread hunger and other ecological degradations and hence disastrous economic situations. There were, indeed, particularly acute situations in the decade 1974 to 1984, which caused widespread calamities due to these factors, which then prompted the creation of a multinational agency to deal with the common problems of the region in this respect. This is how IGADD was born to work on the basis of good faith, where member countries would execute its projects on good faith, without enforcement powers. (1)

IGADD was rebranded as IGAD in 1996 with a mission to assist the member states in achieving peace and security and economic cooperation among themselves. The original concept of dealing with hunger, environmental degradations and desertification were pushed to the backburner. Peace and security and assurances, thereof, became the vanguard activities of the organization and in particular with respect to the intense and still lingering civil strives of the region, including issues in Somalia, South Sudan, which also joined the organization after independence from Sudan in 2011, to make it an eight-member institution. The business of IGAD became more of an NGO, despite being a multilateral governmental body, seeking financial assistance from non-regional parties and hence serving the interests of those financiers more than the members themselves.

The mission statement of the organizations says that its role is to “promote regional cooperation and integration to add value to member states’ efforts in achieving peace, security and prosperity”. Many observers and experts, however, believe and note that the institution has failed in handling none of its lofty goals. The regional problems, including its ever-expanding conflicts such as Somalia’s civil wars, South Sudan’s continuing civil war, Ethio-Eritrean wars in the years prior to the current administration in Ethiopia, the Tigray conflict of Ethiopia and still lingering ethnic strives in the country, and indeed, the now ongoing civil and governance conflict in Sudan, have continued unabated. Religious terrorism also still plays havoc in the region.

IGAD financially is itself a burden, not only on its member states but also on the world donner communities. It, therefore, cannot develop programs on its own and, therefore, cannot have any initiative to carry out any of its goals. It is further hampered by the fact that there is no institutional cooperation between the member states or even populations for that matter. Other than displacements caused by the civil wars and strives, populations do not travel to each other for any other purpose within the region and this seems to be forced beyond the governments’ will, and neither do their institutions both governmental and business and/or educational and health services.

The IGAD region should have had a regional hegemon, usually the largest country in the region. In the IGAD region, there is no such hegemon. Ethiopia, the largest country in terms of population, and Sudan in terms of surface area, are both involved in their own bleeding civil strives and have no room for taking on other issues. Kenya and Uganda which are more stable in the IGAD region are more involved in their other region, the East Africa Community and therefore have no room, themselves for embarking on pushing forward the agenda of IGAD. The two organizations of EAC and IGAD have nothing in common and loyalties cannot be “divided”. The East Africa Community members in IGAD should, in all honesty, leave IGAD and stay within the EAC Community. These include South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. The remaining countries are the SEED countries and Sudan, and they can form a new organization, if only Sudan can also finally decide what it wants – being an Arab country or a Horn of Africa States country. The new organization could be the Horn of Africa States or H.A.S.

The four countries of HAS, namely the SEED countries have generally the same populations, the same Cushitic and Afro-Asiatic language base and economically compliment each other with the highland/lowland divide. If Sudan also joins, the region would be strengthened more not only with additional space but also with a large educated population, resources including maritime resources in the form of its nearly nine hundred kilometers on the Red Sea, which would then stretch the maritime coast of the region to some 5555 kilometers, and hence one of the largest maritime economic exclusive zones in the world and overlooking one of the busiest waterways in the world – the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Bab El Mandab, Gulf of Aden and northern Indian Ocean (the Somali Sea).

IGAD, despite constituting an eight member African cohort, would never achieve any success on “As Is” basis. For one some of its members are in other more prominent organizations and African at that. They are Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda, which are members of the East Africa Community, the EAC. Sudan is also an effective Arab League member, and although this is also the case of Somalia and Djibouti, but neither country is as “Arab” as Sudan is and can therefore withdraw anytime, which then leaves the Horn of Africa States region as the only possible replacement for the dysfunctional IGAD. HAS could have its offices in Djibouti, thus not only balancing the concept of not overlooking the smaller states in the creation of the new infrastructure, but also keeping a modicum of continuity.

Indeed, the IGAD Strategy 2021-2025, which aims at building and accelerating regional integration and cross border cooperation among Member States, did not take into consideration the contradictions within the member states as noted earlier. How can therefore be economic integration when some are integrating with non-member associations such as the EAC? It looks that IGAD is working on fallacies that cannot be achieved. It only makes the proposition of rebranding IGAD as H.A.S more plausible. It is more relevant and none of these countries, the SEED countries, belong economically to other regional organizations, other than international and/or multilateral organizations such as the Arab League and/or COMESA.

Experts note that IGAD only serves as a secretariat, which wastes taxpayers’ money, time and energies and should be replaced by a more valid organization, such as the Horn of Africa States would represent, that seriously looks at integrating the Horn of Africa region, the easternmost region of the African continent, which currently appears to be the most distraught region, not only in Africa but also in the world. These are the SEED countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti and perhaps, eventually Sudan. IGAD would not serve these countries and it is high time they replaced and rebranded it as H.A.S. with its headquarters still in Djibouti, in the place of IGAD.

Rebranding is generally defined as changing the marketing strategies of failing companies and/or institutions through change of names, logos, objectives and indeed, the foundation basis of an institution be it a business or otherwise. Such an institution. It is, indeed, given a new identity in the minds of those who need the services and/or products of the old organization. The customer base and stakeholders are provided with a new institution that serves better and/or provides a better product.

Those rebranding an institution generally take into consideration many aspects of management, product/service quality, delivery mechanisms, the culture of an organization and, indeed, its original foundation, with a goal of transforming it into a new organization that is endowed with internal harmony, satisfaction of the users of the service and/or product and general leadership.

In all aspects of mission and vision and its capabilities/capacities, IGAD appears to have failed as the member states had from the beginning differing goals and still do. The original treaties did not provide any enforcement rules of the game for the organization, and neither do they exist at present. The members of the organization, as we noted earlier, belong to other organizations that have completely differing goals that IGAD itself. The financing of its administration and projects also depends more on the donner world rather than contributions of the member countries, which remains nominal.

It appears to be time now that the organization was dismantled completely and a new organization that serves the region better is instituted. This can only be the Horn of Africa States region as a block to be based again in Djibouti, which can create a new foundation for the region involving new enforceable treaties, which are financed in their entireties by the states of the region. While help and assistance from non-regional parties would be welcome, the new organization should be self-financing and independent. A new tax system catering for the delivery of the services of the organization could be implemented within the member countries.

Rebranding IGAD would not be an easy process. It would involve not only changing of mindsets, but also cool research, patience and vision to pull it off successfully. It may need one or two of the SEED countries taking the lead, a hegemon. But given time and energy, this is an inevitable process, and the leaders of the SEED countries should not waste more time parading with those countries, as just happened in Djibouti, that already have their own economic-cum-political infrastructures and dynamics, which would only take advantage of the SEED countries at best.

By Dr Suleiman Walhad


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at suleimanwalhad@yahoo.com.


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