Conflict resolution and the end to regional instability are key security issues. Protracted internal conflicts have become known as complex political emergencies, because of the complexity of these conflicts. This type of conflict has been prevalent in the Horn of Africa since 1970s. Conflict resolution and mediation within this geographical area is of high priority for inter-governmental organisations, Western and African governments. Internal conflicts have been allowed to continue with the support of neighbouring states in the region. Therefore, to understand the root causes and natures of these conflicts an analysis of both regional and internal issues are necessary.
This paper analyses the nature of conflict within the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa (in this paper) includes Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea and also the countries in the regional economic group, the Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD). It examines the regional institutional network, IGAD, that aims to resolve these conflicts.
The main findings are that internal conflicts are rarely solely internal and are amplified by external mutual intervention. Mutual intervention is when opponents of existing regimes all receive some kind of support from governmental or other forces in neighbouring countries.
- Degrees of support for mutual intervention can be classified into five types of situations.
- These range from where conflicts are only sustained because of external backing (Somali movements of 1980s) to where external influences are present but not determinant to the conflict (Eritrean and Tigray liberation movements).
- Individual security, national security and regional security are interdependent.
- Inter-state détente between Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1991-1993 led to the withdrawal of mutual intervention in the region. This new political stance was institutionalised in a peace-making and security role for the IGAD.
- Since the return to conflict in 1993, Sudan has continued its internal conflict and has supported opposition groups from Uganda and Eritrea. This has led to destabilisation within the region and an increase in mutual intervention.
- International interventions by USA and United Nations in Somalia have been seen as quick fixes and have not led to long term peace.
- Certain regimes and warlords, e.g. Somalia, have political and economic interests in sustaining conflicts.
Internal conflicts should be viewed as a regional problem. They are being sustained in the Horn of Africa through external state support of opposition groups, which destabilises the whole region, without actually leading to inter-state conflict. IGAD’s institutional role for peace-making and security was a product of a commitment to peace within the region.
- Regional institutional mechanisms are important in providing forums for conflict resolution and an end to mutual intervention, which sustains conflicts. li>
- Resolving internal conflicts requires the analysis of external and internal dimensions.
- Regional organisations, such as IGAD, can combine conflict resolution and economic development to promote peace and sustainable development.
- Institutional actions can lead to improve humanitarian efforts during conflict. The IGAD Committee on Sudan in 1994, set a declaration of principles and action to distribute humanitarian assistance, which were accepted by dissident groups and the Sudanese government.
- Any negotiating peace process needs to recognise different power sources and to transcend them by involving groups within civil society who are committed to promoting peace.
- Conflict resolution can only be achieved if it is not within the interests of certain groups to sustain the conflict for political or economic reasons.