1) WHAT IS THE HORN OF AFRICA?
Horn of Africa is the furthest eastern part of Africa that is shaped like a Horn by looking at the map of continent.
Horn of Africa geographically covers nearly 2 million km2 or 770, 000 sq m.
The Horn of Africa comprises of mainly Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. These countries share a common border with one another, the longest of which is shared by Somalia and Ethiopia.
The total population is estimated around a 100 million, of which Ethiopia has the largest of all with nearly 85 million populations.
Geopolitically, Somalia also shares a border with Kenya while Sudan is adjacent to Ethiopia, so both Kenya and Sudan are sometimes included in the reference of the horn of Africa peninsula with some even included Uganda as part of Horn of Africa.
2) WHY IS HORN OF AFRICA A VOLATILE PLACE?
Years of violence, cultural clashes.
The horn of Africa is one of the poorest parts of Africa. Droughts and famine have hit the sub region hardly and let hundreds of thousands to the starvation to death in different periods. Over the years millions of the horn of Africa population took refuge externally in Africa, Europe and America or internally in their home countries.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has also been one of the troubles of the region with Somali pirates causing international concern after disrupting global flows of global trade-off the coast of Somalia.
Horn of Africa is also one of the most conflict-ridden parts of the continent. These conflicts are mainly over border disputes like the one between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Eritrea annexed by Ethiopia in 1962 voted in a referendum in 1993 to secede Ethiopia after taking part in the struggle to oust the military rule in Ethiopia led by Mingistu Haile Mariam in 1991. As, the border was not clearly marked, it became a source of conflict between the two which led to 1998 and 2000 wars. Hundreds of thousands were killed.
On other hand, Somalia laid claim on the land inhabited by Somalis in both Ethiopia and Kenya and argued that they were illegally annexed by Ethiopia and Kenya with the help of the colony before Somalia’s independence in 1960. Because of this, Somalia and Ethiopia went to war in 1970s.
Somalia later collapsed due to internal fighting and civil war which resulted in the overthrow of the 21 year military rule led by Mohamed Siad Barre. Somalia dis-integrated on clan bases and fiefdoms and war lords ruled parts of the country. This led the neighbouring countries to take measures of interference in order to influence the internal politics or at least contain the violence within Somali borders.
In recent years Ethiopia and Eritrea turned their conflict into a proxy war in Somalia, each supporting the other side of the conflict.
In 2006, a Union of Islamic Courts captured and stabilized parts of Southern Somalia including the capital, Mogadishu, but this immediately caused a high level concern in the region with Ethiopia sending thousands of troops to oust the Islamists.
A more extremist group, al-Shabab emerged in the fight against Ethiopian troops. Al-Shabab later declared allegiance to al-Qaeda. A UN resolution accused Eritrea of supporting the ‘terrorist’ group in Somalia.
Eritrea was also involved in conflicts with Yemen and Djibouti over border dispute.
Ethiopia officially left Somalia in 2009, however its troops re-entered parts of Somalia where they still support local militias.
Armed opposition groups also operate in Ethiopia. Most known are Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist group fighting since 1994 in the Ethiopian Somali region to separate from Ethiopia. The group killed 65 Ethiopian troops and 9 Chinese workers at an oilfield in Ethiopia in 2007.
2) WHO WAS MELES ZENAWI AND WHAT IMPACT DID HE HAVE ON THE REGION
Who was he? How did he change/alter things?
Meles Zenawi was the Ethiopian president and later prime minister from 1991-2012.
He died at a hospital in Europe. Before his death he was a crucial supporter of the war against Islamists in the Horn of Africa, sending thousands of Ethiopian troops into Somalia to fight the Somali Islamist extremists Al-Shabab.
Before rising to power, Meles Zenawi joined the rebels at the age of twenty after abandoning his university education.
He rose through the ranks to become one of the prominent figures of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which toppled the military junta led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. He forged an alliance with other parties to become a coalition party (EPRDF) that is until now ruling Ethiopia.
He became Ethiopia Prime Minster in 1995. A post he occupied until his death. There were democratic elections in Ethiopia during his leadership. But the one in 2005, in which Opposition claimed victory but the government disagreed, triggered mass demonstrations in the streets of Addis Ababa, resulting the death of almost 200 protesters and police. Protesters were arrested in their masses. They included students and opposition members.
Freedom of speech in the country was criticised and many say it was heavily curtailed or in its worst scenario repressed with convictions and long sentences.
Mr Zenawi was a charismatic leader that showed strong leadership and he was respected by other leaders in the region except the Eritrean president Isaisas Afewerki, a former ally in the armed struggle that brought both to power in the 1990s and whom they fought over border claims in late 1990s and 2000.
The former US president, Bill Clinton once described Meles Zenawi as one of a ‘new generation’ of African leaders. He was praised to have masterminded a clear strategy for economic growth which many say has worked considerably well, an economic growth that solidly sustained for years.
Current US president, Barack Obama also spoke highly of the late Ethiopia Prime Minister, he said “I am also grateful for Prime Minister Meles’ service for peace and security in Africa, his contributions to the African Union and his voice for Africa on the world stage,”
3) WHAT IMPACT MIGHT HIS DEATH HAVE ON THE REGION AND O THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?
Because, Meles Zenawi spent some time in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, as an Ethiopian rebel leader, many believe he knew Somalia’s political dynamics inside out.
Critics of his policies on Somalia say his departure signals an end to a two decade long Ethiopia’s policy of what seemed like ‘keep Somalia at its weak position of factional division’ on the basis of ethnic clans each controlling a swathe of Somalia. Meles controlled most of the faction leaders in Somalia until his death. Some say Meles Zenawi never wanted Somalia to re-emerge as the state it was in 1980s.
Somalia has for the first time selected a parliament inside its capital Mogadishu last month. This parliament elected a speaker and it is also going to elect a new president to lead the first non-transitional government since 1991.
Many believe it is the end the Somalia from 1991 with Meles Zenawi rule of Ethiopia from 1991.
The Ethiopian deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will serve as acting prime minister until the next election in 2015. However, it is likely that power struggle could emerge within the ruling party; particularly formerly well-known politicians within the party who were sidelined by Meles Zenawi could try their luck.
America is concerned about the war he led for them by Meles Zenawi, the war on terror in the Horn of Africa.
The fight against Somalia’s Islamists al-Shabab may have lost a strong ally. The group al-Shabab welcomed the death of Meles Zenawi. But, it is strongly believed that Ethiopia’s involvement in the fight against al-Shabab will not change, but might take momentum with African Union troops defeating the group in many fronts.
Kenya’s prime minister Raila Odinga voiced his concern after the death of Meles Zenawi by saying that it is feared Ethiopia to become unstable because it is ‘fairly fragile and there is a lot of ethnic violence.”