A delegation of the Intergovernmental
Authority on Development recently visited Brussels and held talks with
the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development and
Cooperation and the European External Action Service.
The main message of the IGAD representatives is that however
difficult and marred by conflict, the Horn of Africa’s elites could be a
driving force and by engaging in regional cooperation, replicating the
process of reconciliation that historically has been at the basis of the
IDAG representatives told EurActiv that the challenges only matched
their ambitions to prove that engaging in regional cooperation and make
sure that the local elites meet and develop relations of mutual respect.
The IGAD executive secretary, Mahboub M. Maalim of Kenya, said that
the national approach that had prevailed in the post-colonisation period
had become in many respects an obstacle to development. Moreover, he
said that national positions are less likely to get the attention and
obtain funding from Brussels, whereas regional positions carried more
The organisation, which has traditionally assisted its member
countries in responding to drought and food insecurity, is more and more
active in transport, telecommunications and energy projects.
Technology has completely changed the old patterns, Maalim said, mentioning mobile communications and solar power.
Lack of visibility
Maalim admitted that IGAD lacked visibility in Brussels, but
expressed the ambition to work for improving its branding, promising to
return to Brussels in September with a delegation for several public
Claus Sørensen, director-general of DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil
Protection, told EurActiv the Horn was “one of the most fragile places
in the world.” Its challenges include widespread poverty, climate
change, and a post-colonial heritage that forces different ethnic and
tribal groups to live together. Governance is also seen as a problem.
The Horn of Africa is also one of the world’s most conflict-prone areas:
Somalia is struggling to build a functioning central government 22 years after the outbreak of a civil war in 1991;
Ethiopia and Eritrea are at odds over multiple sections of their border;
Somaliland is an unrecognised, self-declared state in Somalia,
and Puntland is a region of Somalia which declared autonomy in 1998.
Piracy in off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international
shipping and still requires an international naval presence.
The delimitation of Lake Victoria and the use of its resources, the
shoreline of which is divided between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, has
been a source of instability.
Relations between Sudan and South Sudan remain loaded with tension and
genocide charges hang on several of the region’s leaders.
Centralised UN authority
In response to the challenges, the United Nations has decided to step
up its efforts and are planning an “integrated mission”, which means
putting political, security, development and humanitarian operations
under a single official, Sørensen said.
But Sørensen said that integrating the humanitarian arm wasn’t
necessarily the best way of strengthening assistance. He explained that
his staff was telling him that in order to deal with South and Central
Somalia, the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab would be a factor “for
many years to come”.
On 19 June, Al-Shabaab attacked on the UNDP compound in Mogadishu, a violent act condemned by IGAD.
“It’s not that they disappear and evaporate, they are there, they
have their networks, they will continue to be in function, and if you
want to assist the population, you have to work with them. So it’s
better to keep the humanitarians a little bit outside the
joint-operation,” Sørensen said.
The EU official said the Commission had committed to support the
nascent Somali state by mobilising “massive amounts of money” and by
agreeing that development and humanitarian operations would
“There is a commitment to offer assistance and it will be offered, if
the conditions are ripe, because you need to have valid projects, you
need to have partners on the ground, you have to have a minimum of
security. What is missing is the stability surrounding the operation,”