EU strategy for the Horn of Africa
Delivered in Plenary - 14th January 2013
The whole of Africa is one of the most tense and conflict-prone regions of the world. The countries of the region – Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda – continue to be characterised by strife. The many problems include tensions between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia and between Eritrea and Djibouti, absence of the rule of law, drug smuggling and piracy, terrorist activities by the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Qa’ida and, perhaps most gravely of all, famine, dire poverty and disputes over water supplies.
But the first thing that my report notes is the paramount importance to the global economy of a stable Horn of Africa and safe passage of ships off its coast. Africa itself as a continent presents huge economic potential but we cannot ignore the problems of fundamental human rights. Poverty is rife and, owing to the particularly bad droughts in 2008 and 2009 with the resulting famine, it is estimated that over 13 million people are now in need of emergency assistance in the entire Horn of Africa.
Coupled with this is the lack of stable democratic and employment prospects for the population particularly the young. We are now reaching a point in which young people growing up in towns such as Mogadishu in Somalia have only ever known violence and war. Coupled with the absence of the rule of law, poor prospects will continue to provide fertile grounds for encouraging criminal activities including piracy and drug smuggling and sustain al-Qa’ida affiliated terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab.
Piracy is costing the world’s shipping industry an estimated GBP 4.1 billion per year. Although there now appears to be some signs that the revenue from piracy is declining as counter-piracy measures take effect, recent raids by pirates have nonetheless demonstrated the increasing ambitions and sophistication of their operations which require still more effort and resources from the EU’s CFSP maritime counter-piracy operation EUNavfor-Atalanta, which is commanded out of my constituency in Northwood in London.
The EU should stand ready now to provide financial assistance when required but the political resources and political impetus must come from within the region itself led by the Horn of Africa nations: Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The latter, until a recent announcement of withdrawal, have all provided valuable military support to the efforts to achieve stability and peace in the region. We have also seen success through the EU training mission in Somalia and the newly launched EUCAP Nestor which aims to strengthen the rule of law in Somalia.
Political coordination also needs to be a priority and, as such, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development known as IGAD can play a key role as a regional Africa player in developing a system of good governance. Coordination of water resources is particularly vital, with the ongoing negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the grand renaissance Blue Nile Dam project proving a case in particular.
There is now reason for cautious optimism on the prospects of enduring peace and stability in this region. We have seen that EU and AU troops can work together to achieve common aims. Pockets of stability such as Somaliland have proved to be capable of developing effective judiciaries and democratic institutions. The recent elections in Somalia to replace a transitional federal government and the near-peaceful split of Sudan into two sovereign states gives rise to the hopes that democracy, stability and prosperity will one day be realised for all the nations in that region.
The extremely large volume of amendments inserted at committee stage for my report have, of course, diluted the initial foreign affairs and security focus which I had intended and I did oppose the hostile tone of some paragraphs towards Ethiopia in particular. It is also a matter of personal regret that my observation of Somaliland’s desire for re-recognition as a nation state was deleted. Nevertheless, I hope that this report can offer some contribution to the current multi-layered discourse on the Horn of Africa and eventually be incorporated into the EU strategy more broadly.