How can unity of purpose come to fruition in a world of uncompromising identity politics? This is the real challenge facing Africa. The Horn is probably more prone to this malaise than many of the other regions on the continent. Here is the dilemma. On one hand, there is the realization that Africa’s fate is doomed unless Africans forge broad and meaningful alliance against the reigning polarizing globalization (not excluding wars, etc.) On the other hand, this Pan African sentiment (easily said than done) is confronting the formidable primordial forces of identity politics that work against the unifying drive. How is one to reconcile this? So far and outside of the usual empty rhetoric, (the AU vision, etc.) Africans and their leaders have conspicuously failed to articulate and implement durable strategies that can pacify the elemental sentiment of kinship to allow diverse, yet cohesive, political entities to take deep root!
The so-called REC’s (Regional Economic Cooperation, like COMESA, ECOWAS, etc.), which were initiated by the formal states to serve as building blocks of continental unity, might not stand the first serious brawls, especially if these incursions are instigated by hyper-ethnicized sheeple (human mass.) This top down concoction is almost exclusively focused on the mercantilist logic of exchange and accumulation, which in turn is based on the ideology of greed, sanctified by the modern world system. Put together, such schemes, mostly pushed by the narrative of the metropolis, do not consider the real issue of identity politics that obtains on the African ground. Countries that looked relatively homogenous like Somalia, Libya, etc., have succumbed to identity politics of much lesser intensity than what we are currently facing in the broader Horn. Imagine if this ontological conviction takes over the imagination of the sheeplet (the youth) in a seriously diverse country like Ethiopia! With some luck, the Horn can potentially avoid such nightmares if its collective leadership genuinely focuses on issues that are common to all and sundry. Unfortunately, after the demise of the socialisms, USSR, et al, and the ascendance of neoliberalism, critical thinking was sacrificed on the altar of the accumulation god. Would be articulators, revolutionaries, humanists, etc., in general, those who used to be genuinely concerned about the welfare and liberation of collective humanity, were systemically marginalized/ignored/disregarded, both by the global power that be, as well as their minions in the peripheries. The result; countries in Africa are mostly run by zombies with hardly any knowledge about the workings of the modern world system. The modern world system is sustained by systemically leveraging racism, religion, ethnicity, sexism, etc. all across the globe!
Be that as it may, the Horn has to tackle its myriad problems intelligently/creatively, by hook or a crook; if anything, at least to avoid the worst possible outcomes that can easily lead to utter chaos and regional instability! To those well disposed, Ethiopia can still exert a ‘pulling effect’ on the other countries of the Horn. Ethiopia has a large area inhabited by several clans of the Somali ethnic groups that is adjoined by Somalia (Ogaden). In the North, Ethiopia has a large area inhabited by the Tigreans, adjoining Eritrea (Tigray). Ethiopia has a large area inhabited by the Afaris, adjoining Djibouti and Eritrea (Afar). Again, Ethiopia has a large area inhabited by the Nour, Dinka, etc. adjoining South Sudan (Gambella). Ditto Beneshangul and Borena. It is only Ethiopia that has, within its political jurisdiction, all the diverse nations and nationalities of the Horn, however defined! On the other hand, the other Horn countries lack such a full spectrum ethnic mix. For example, Eritrea doesn’t have Somalis or even Oromos in any significant number. By the same token, Somalia doesn’t have noticeable number of Tigryans in its territory, etc., etc. This wide encapsulation of (Ethiopia’s) diversity is an asset in its own right and can help build confidence amongst the peoples of the Horn. Obviously, this reality is a two-sided sword. Handled properly and wisely, Ethiopia’s composition can help bring the peoples of the Horn together and might also serve as a rudimentary template for potential consolidations elsewhere in Africa. Absent capable leadership to handle the growing unbridled primordial instincts, proliferating disturbances can destabilize the region as well as the far away lands of the Middle East, Europe, etc.!
We admit, quality leadership has proved difficult to come by, almost everywhere. Shallow demagogues with psychopathic streak always craving for power, continue to brainwash and goad the gullible African sheeple into heinous acts, which are only intended to serve the interests of the criminally inclined. The African Sheeple has to start interrogating some of its elite whose loyalty to the continent/people is suspect. A number of these characters are only interested in collecting crumbs from their foreign masters for massively undermining their poor sheeples and states, in all possible ways! In the absence of committed indigenous leadership with sufficient caliber or what Gramsci, (the radical philosopher early 20th century) labeled ‘organic intellectuals’, our future remains, at best, precarious! When ethnic affiliation overrides long honed collective values, there isn’t much one can do. For instance, when next to kin is engaged in atrocities/genocide against members of another ethnic group, the rational and decent thing to do is to bring the culprit to justice. But when his clan is out in force to protect him from justice, the time tested collective civilized existence is going to be undermined severely! Enlightened leadership, based on common human values must take the lead if we are to survive, let alone flourish!
To be fair, capitalist modernity to which all African nation states have pledged alliance to, is failing them left and right. Critical discourses that challenge the prevailing polarization are no more encouraged or even allowed by the status quo! The Horn will not get very far if it adheres to the existing unsustainable nature-destroying paradigm that passes for ‘development.’ We will try to interrogate the prevailing economic narrative that dominates social thoughts, particularly as it pertains to the Horn’s future, in our next installment. In the mean time, we should remind ourselves that we could always learn from history, with a view to employ the various lessons in our endeavor. Here is a statement from one of the unifiers/consolidators of 19th century Europe. “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Otto von Bismarck. Good Day!