African countries must “find an answer” to the continuing influence of foreign powers in the Horn of Africa.
At an event to mark the 56th anniversary of the African Union, Foreign Affairs Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba argued that the continent’s rise from poverty could be slowed if countries do not take a decisive stand on security challenges facing them.
He spoke directly on the Horn of Africa, a region that has faced the threat of terrorism from Al-Shabaab terrorists and ISIS, and now is at the centre of naval power struggles linked to the gulf diplomatic standoff.
“Africa continues to face the challenge of insecurity. It’s a challenge that we must remain alive to and continue to confront,” he told an audience at the Ethiopian Embassy on Saturday night.
The embassy was hosting celebrations to mark 56 years of the founding of the African Union, then known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and often known as Africa Day.
Referring to the recent naval race between the US and allies against Iran in the Gulf, Mr Namwamba said African nations must ask if taking sides in the tiff serves their interests, especially since the Horn of Africa has always been volatile.
“We must ask ourselves whether these extra-regional interests around the Horn of Africa is good for Africa. We must pose that question and find an answer,” he said.
In the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is host to a number of military bases from France, Japan, China and the US.
Turkey has recently set up a base in Somalia.
The US is siding with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where they have battled against the side supported by Iran.
In 2017, Djibouti also sided with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, the Comoros and Jordan to impose a blockade on Qatar over Doha’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism, which it denied.
“We must critically examine what this portends for the stability and prosperity of the Horn and the continent in general,” said Mr Namwamba.
But Mr Namwamba called for concerted efforts to fight the threat of terrorism which he said may continue weakening the region as long as the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) forces are not backed up.
“The delicate security situation is worsened by a weakened Amisom which, while a UN sanctioned mission, remains chronically underfunded and under-capacitated.
“We must continue to push for Al-Shabaab to be classified as a terror organisation and strengthen continental and global collaborations and partnerships to undermine and liquidate the threat of terrorism and violent extremism whose face in our Horn neighbourhood is Al-Shabaab and ISIS,” he added.
Though sanctioned by successive UN Security Council resolutions since 2006, Amisom, to which Kenya Defence Forces are a part of, is not funded from the UN Peacekeeping Fund.
One argument has been that it is a combat force rather than peacekeeping blue helmet troops.
If funded, it could create a new precedent, forcing the UN to finance all others including the joint forces fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon.
But despite the security chaos, Mr Namwamba pointed out the success stories from Africa.
He told the audience that the recent peace deals in South Sudan, rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the peaceful transfer of power in the DR Congo could influence the continent to work towards stability.