Shifting Tides amidst Regional Challenges: Navigating Horn of Africa’s Geopolitical Chessboard—Literature Review
Abdikadir Issa Farahorcid
Researcher, Mogadishu, Somalia.
DOI: 10.4236/jss.2024.122005   PDF    HTML   XML   371 Downloads   1,270 Views  


This comprehensive paper, titled “Shifting Tides Amidst Regional Challenges”, offers a detailed exploration of the intricate geopolitical conflicts unfolding in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Recent developments, including Ethiopia’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Somaliland and Somalia’s subsequent rejection due to sovereignty concerns, form the basis for understanding the complex regional landscape. Drawing from an extensive literature review, the paper navigates through multifaceted challenges, examining the Nile River water dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt and the alliances forming with global powers. The analysis anticipates potential future scenarios, ranging from diplomatic resolutions to heightened tensions, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach. The interconnectedness of regional stability and power dynamics is explored, with a particular focus on the security repercussions of geopolitical maneuvering. The Gulf of Aden, a vital maritime route, emerges as a focal point for trade and economic interests, intensifying geopolitical complexities. Motivations behind regional alliances, encompassing economic imperatives, water disputes, and broader geopolitical strategies, are explored in-depth. Unresolved conflicts in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are scrutinized for their substantial consequences, jeopardizing regional peace and influencing global trade and security dynamics. The speculated alliance between Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates prompts a thorough examination of economic and strategic motivations. Against this backdrop, the conflict crisis between Western countries and the Houthi rebels in Yemen intensifies, adding a critical dimension to the region’s geopolitical dynamics. Recent incidents, such as the Houthi rebels kidnapping ships in the Red Sea, underscore the volatility and security challenges faced by maritime activities in the area. The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians further complicates the geopolitical chessboard, emphasizing the interconnectedness of conflicts across the broader region. The paper is grounded in an exploration of globalization, geopolitical crises, sovereignty concerns, economic forces, and adherence to international and customary laws. Through this comprehensive analysis, it provides valuable perspectives on the evolving dynamics shaping the critical region of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the broader Horn of Africa.

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Farah, A. (2024) Shifting Tides amidst Regional Challenges: Navigating Horn of Africa’s Geopolitical Chessboard—Literature Review. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 12, 70-83. doi: 10.4236/jss.2024.122005.

1. Introduction

Somalia, like many nations, grapples with the multifaceted impacts of globalization, where economic forces often challenge the traditional concept of sovereignty. This paper explores how globalization manifests in Somalia, specifically examining the retreat of sovereignty in the face of a market-driven global environment. The intricate interplay between economic realities and political autonomy poses unique challenges for the nation as it seeks to navigate the complexities of a globalized world.

One prominent symptom of globalization in Somalia is the discernible tension between economic realities and political solutions. The global market, driven by interconnected trade and financial systems, imposes economic imperatives that can often take precedence over national laws and the preferences of citizens. The pressure to align with global economic trends may lead to policy decisions that prioritize market dynamics, potentially undermining the traditional authority of the state in shaping its political and economic future. This shift underscores the need for Somalia to strategically balance participation in the global economy with the preservation of its political autonomy.

The retreat of sovereignty becomes palpable when considering the challenges posed to national laws and citizens’ aspirations. Globalization introduces economic forces that can influence or dictate policy decisions, potentially leading to a scenario where laws are shaped more by international economic considerations than by the needs and desires of the Somali people. The impact is felt not only in economic policies but also in the negotiation and implementation of international trade agreements. Striking a balance between adhering to global economic norms and safeguarding national laws and citizens’ aspirations becomes a delicate task, highlighting the intricate challenges posed by the retreat of sovereignty (Marchal et al., 2000) .

2. Overview of the Context

2.1. Somalia

Situated strategically in the Horn of Africa, Somalia remains a linchpin overseeing both the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The significance of diplomatic agreements and alliances cannot be overstated in international relations. However, when nations, exemplified by Ethiopia, engage in agreements with specific regions without consideration for the Somali government, it raises profound concerns. This approach appears to neglect international legal frameworks and customary norms that govern such engagements, challenging the established protocols that aim to foster cooperation and respect among nations. Such actions can be perceived as a departure from the principles of diplomatic conduct that underpin stable and collaborative international relationships.

At the heart of the concern lies the potential disregard for the sovereignty of nations in the region. International law emphasizes the principle of recognizing and respecting the territorial integrity and autonomy of states. By sidestepping the central government in Somalia and directly engaging with specific regions, Ethiopia’s actions may be seen as bypassing this fundamental principle. This approach can contribute to heightened tensions and conflicts, as it challenges the norms that guide state interactions and may undermine the broader stability of the region.

The challenges in upholding established protocols and respecting sovereignty are underscored by the broader implications of such actions. Diplomatic engagements are typically governed by a set of international norms and practices aimed at fostering mutual understanding and cooperation. When these norms are bypassed, it introduces a level of unpredictability and potential conflict, as nations may interpret such actions as a threat to their own sovereignty and regional stability. Navigating these challenges requires a delicate balance between pursuing national interests and upholding the principles that form the foundation of international relations.

The retreat of sovereignty in this market-driven global environment is reflected in the challenges faced by nations like Somalia, where economic imperatives imposed by global market forces may at times seem to overshadow political autonomy. This complex interplay between economic globalization and political sovereignty raises critical questions about how nations navigate the delicate balance between participating in the global economy and preserving their ability to make decisions aligned with their citizens’ wishes.

Ethiopia’s recent agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland, where it seeks port access in exchange for potential recognition of Somaliland’s sovereignty, has ignited significant geopolitical tensions in the Horn of Africa. The implications of this agreement have far-reaching consequences, especially as it challenges the status quo in a region marked by historical territorial disputes and shifting alliances. Somalia perceives Ethiopia’s move as a direct attack on its sovereignty, viewing the agreement with Somaliland as a breach of established diplomatic norms and an infringement on its territorial integrity (Ehl, 2024) .

The quest for port access is a strategic move by Ethiopia, landlocked and heavily reliant on maritime routes for its imports and exports. However, the decision to engage directly with Somaliland, a region that declared independence from Somalia, adds a layer of complexity to an already intricate geopolitical landscape. Somalia, already grappling with internal challenges and regional conflicts, interprets Ethiopia’s maneuver as a destabilizing force, further exacerbating tensions in a region that demands delicate diplomatic navigation.

The disagreement over Ethiopia’s engagement with Somaliland underscores the delicate balance required in regional diplomacy. While Ethiopia seeks practical solutions for its economic needs, the impact on Somalia’s sovereignty cannot be overlooked. The situation highlights the interconnectedness of national interests, regional stability, and historical disputes, emphasizing the need for diplomatic finesse to address the concerns of all parties involved and prevent further escalation of tensions in the Horn of Africa. In general, the increasing involvement of West Asian actors in the Northwest Indian Ocean (NWIO) signifies a crucial shift in the geopolitical dynamics of the Indian Ocean. This involvement is altering the strategic landscape of the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region. The rising military presence of major global players and escalating regional competitions contribute an intriguing aspect to the evolving geopolitical situation (Geopolitics of the Northwest Indian Ocean: Exploring the Strategic Presence of West Asian States, 2022) .

Addressing the concerns arising from such actions necessitates diplomatic dialogue and adherence to established international protocols. It calls for a commitment to inclusive and transparent negotiations that consider the interests and sovereignty of all parties involved. By doing so, nations can contribute to the maintenance of regional stability and reinforce the importance of respecting international laws and norms in shaping collaborative diplomatic endeavors.

Influence of Local Religions on Political Dynamics in Somalia:

Somalis as 100% Muslims, Islamic religion wields a considerable influence on the political dynamics of Somalia, shaping the nation’s socio-political landscape in profound ways. The predominant religion, Islam, plays a central role in governance, societal norms, and political decision-making. Islamic principles often intersect with political ideologies, influencing policies and governance structures.

Understanding the intricate relationship between local religions and political dynamics is crucial for comprehending the motivations and actions of political actors, as well as for fostering a nuanced approach to governance that respects religious pluralism.

Influence of Globalization on Local Economy and Social Situation in Somalia:

Globalization significantly impacts Somalia’s local economy and social dynamics. On the economic front, increased interconnectedness exposes the country to global markets, affecting trade, investment, and economic policies. While globalization can offer opportunities for economic growth, it also presents challenges, such as vulnerability to external economic shocks.

Socially, globalization introduces cultural exchange, technological advancements, and new ideas, influencing social norms and lifestyles. Access to global communication networks may enhance education and awareness but can also lead to cultural shifts. Additionally, economic disparities and unequal access to global resources can contribute to social tensions.

In summary, globalization in Somalia brings economic opportunities and cultural exchange but also poses challenges that require careful management to ensure equitable development and social cohesion.

General Situation in Somalia:

Somalia faces a complex and challenging situation marked by a combination of political, economic, and security issues. The country has experienced prolonged conflicts, leading to instability and displacement of its population. Political governance is characterized by fragmentation, with different regions asserting varying degrees of autonomy.

Economically, Somalia grapples with challenges such as poverty, limited infrastructure, and dependence on agriculture and remittances. The security situation involves ongoing efforts to combat extremist groups and piracy, contributing to a fragile environment.

Humanitarian concerns are significant, with access to basic services and resources being unevenly distributed. Efforts for state-building and peacebuilding continue, requiring international collaboration and local initiatives to address the multifaceted challenges and pave the way for a more stable and prosperous future.

2.2. Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates

The reports detailing an economic alliance between Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) add a significant commercial dimension to the geopolitical landscape. However, it’s crucial to highlight that this development raises particular concerns on the Somali side, especially in areas where some of the negotiated aspects may relate to Somalia’s territory. Economic alliances, while fostering cooperation, must also navigate delicate geopolitical intricacies and respect the territorial sovereignty of all involved nations.

This economic collaboration, while promising for Ethiopia and the UAE, should be approached with sensitivity to the potential implications for Somalia. Negotiations that touch upon territories without involving all relevant stakeholders can contribute to geopolitical tensions. It becomes essential to address the concerns and considerations of Somalia to ensure that the economic alliance does not inadvertently undermine regional stability or challenge established international norms regarding territorial integrity.

In the broader context of geopolitical dynamics, the economic alliance between Ethiopia and the UAE emphasizes the intricate balance between economic interests and territorial sovereignty. Navigating these complexities requires diplomatic finesse to foster cooperation while addressing the legitimate concerns of all parties involved, contributing to the stability and mutual respect necessary for successful international partnerships.

The visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Addis Ababa marked a significant strengthening of ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ethiopia, with 17 cooperation agreements signed. These agreements, spanning diverse fields, highlight the UAE’s heightened ambitions in Ethiopia, a promising market with over 100 million inhabitants. Notable collaborations include Abu Dhabi Ports and Ethiopian Investment Holdings, aiming to facilitate mutual cooperation, and an agreement between Oumolat Security Printing and the National Bank of Ethiopia, focusing on customs collaboration. The two countries see this as a pivotal aspect of the agreements that involves the exchange of expertise in governance and technological cooperation between the two nations. Additionally, partnerships between the Ethiopian Investment Commission and the Chambers of Commerce in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, as well as financial alliances between Etihad Credit Insurance and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, contribute to the broad spectrum of collaborations. The memorandum of understanding between Al Dahra Group and the Ethiopian Investment Commission emphasizes cooperation in the agriculture sector, while an agreement with DP World FZE focuses on boosting the logistics sector in landlocked Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy, presiding over the signing ceremony, emphasized the deep mutual respect and shared vision for mutual progress between the two nations. Established by former leaders, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Emirati-Ethiopian relations have evolved positively, evidenced by the increasing commercial exchanges. Trade in non-oil products between 2013 and 2022 grew by 180%, exceeding $9 billion, with 2022 alone witnessing non-oil goods trading at approximately $1.4 billion. Foreign direct investment from the UAE, totaling $2.9 billion in over 113 projects, underscores its status as a preferred partner for Ethiopia across various sectors (Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates sign 17 agreements enhancing cooperation in various fields, August 2023).

Ethiopia’s landlocked geographical positioning underscores the vital importance of its access to sea ports for both military logistics and commercial trade. The primary gateways for these endeavors are the strategically significant ports of Djibouti and the Berbera Corridor in Somalia. These maritime links serve as lifelines for the transportation of military equipment, crucial for the nation’s defense and security, as well as facilitating the movement of commercial commodities essential for economic sustenance and growth.

Despite the critical nature of these sea routes, the smooth operation of Ethiopian commodities to and from Djibouti ports has encountered unforeseen challenges, creating a ripple effect with far-reaching economic consequences. The difficulties faced in the transportation process introduce complexities that extend beyond regional borders, impacting not only Ethiopia but also neighboring countries reliant on the flow of goods through these ports. These challenges encompass a range of issues, from logistical bottlenecks to political and infrastructural impediments, collectively hindering the efficiency of trade corridors.

The economic challenges arising from disruptions in the transportation of Ethiopian commodities have multifaceted implications. They not only impede the nation’s ability to export goods and receive imports promptly but also contribute to increased costs, potentially affecting the overall economic stability. Moreover, these challenges underscore the interconnectedness of regional economies, emphasizing the need for collaborative efforts in addressing the obstacles faced by landlocked nations like Ethiopia in securing reliable access to maritime trade routes.

Addressing and overcoming these challenges is pivotal for Ethiopia’s economic resilience and regional stability. Enhanced cooperation with neighboring countries, such as Djibouti and Somalia, in addressing logistical issues and streamlining trade processes is crucial. Additionally, investing in infrastructure development and diplomatic initiatives to alleviate bottlenecks will contribute to the creation of a more robust and efficient maritime trade network, ensuring a smoother flow of Ethiopian commodities and bolstering the economic prosperity of the region as a whole.

2.3. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and Türkiye

Somalia’s significance in the realm of liberal peacebuilding is underscored not only by its inherent need for such approaches but also by the distinct strategies employed by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and Türkiye in their engagement with the nation (İPEK, Revisiting Liberal Peacebuilding: BRICS and Türkiye in Somalia, 2021). Among the BRICS nations, Brazil stands out as the least interested, maintaining a notable disconnection towards Africa, particularly in the post-Lula da Silva presidency era. The absence of a Brazilian embassy in Somalia reflects this disengagement, with no official visits to Somalia during Da Silva’s presidency. This indifference contrasts sharply with the other BRICS members and Türkiye, highlighting the diverse approaches these nations take in their liberal peacebuilding practices.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plays a crucial role in peace and security missions in conflict-affected states, offering various strategies, including peacebuilding, to assist nations transitioning from war to peace. Notably, BRICS and Türkiye deviate from the military-centric peacebuilding strategies often prioritized by great powers. Instead, they opt for a more liberal approach, emphasizing political, institutional, and economic development over military intervention. Despite this overarching preference for liberal peacebuilding, their practices in Somalia diverge, showcasing nuanced differences in their engagement strategies.

Among the BRICS and Türkiye, Türkiye emerges as a notable proponent of liberal peacebuilding in Somalia, surpassing the efforts of the BRICS nations both in terms of approach and quantity. Türkiye’s commitment to Somalia is reflected in its multifaceted approach, combining political, institutional, and economic development initiatives. The contrast with Brazil’s disinterest underlines the importance of understanding the unique dynamics and motivations that guide each nation’s liberal peacebuilding practices. Somalia, as a focal point for these divergent approaches, serves as a microcosm of the broader complexities surrounding liberal peacebuilding strategies employed by emerging powers on the global stage (İPEK, 2021) .

2.4. Western Countries and Houthi Rebels of Yemen

The seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a crucial Red Sea shipping route marks a significant escalation in regional tensions. This incident, occurring amid the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas war, raises concerns about the extension of geopolitical conflicts to a new maritime front. The strategic importance of the Red Sea shipping route amplifies the potential consequences of such actions, as it serves as a vital passage for global trade, making any disruption a matter of international significance.

The hostage-taking of the ship’s 25 crew members adds a human dimension to the situation, intensifying fears and underscoring the potential humanitarian impact of maritime conflicts. The development highlights the interconnected nature of regional disputes, with tensions in one area manifesting in unexpected and far-reaching consequences. As the international community grapples with the complexities of maritime security and geopolitical dynamics, addressing and de-escalating such incidents becomes imperative to ensure stability in a region already marked by multiple conflicts. The Red Sea, extending from Egypt’s Suez Canal to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, plays a crucial role as a major trade route for global shipping and the transportation of energy supplies. Given its strategic importance, the U.S. Navy has strategically deployed multiple ships in the region since the commencement of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7. This maritime presence aims to safeguard the stability and security of the Red Sea, ensuring the uninterrupted flow of international trade and protecting vital energy supply lines that traverse this key maritime corridor. The strategic positioning of U.S. Navy ships underscores the significance of maintaining a secure environment in the Red Sea to safeguard global economic interests and regional stability (Debre & Gambrell, 2023) .

The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians adds a layer of complexity to the already intricate geopolitical chessboard, highlighting the interconnected nature of conflicts across the broader region. This protracted and deeply rooted conflict, marked by historical grievances and territorial disputes, resonates far beyond the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The persistent fighting not only shapes the geopolitical dynamics within the immediate vicinity but also influences the broader landscape of the Middle East, affecting alliances, regional stability, and global diplomacy.

The continuous hostilities exacerbate tensions in the region, fostering an environment fraught with uncertainty and insecurity. The ripple effects of the Israel-Palestinian conflict are felt in neighboring countries, contributing to geopolitical shifts and influencing the strategies of regional actors. The persistence of the conflict raises concerns about the stability of the broader Middle East, as it intertwines with other ongoing disputes and power struggles. The ability to address and potentially resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict holds implications not only for the immediate parties involved but also for the broader peace and stability of the region. “Beyond the Gulf rivals” maneuvering in Somalia, their growing interest in the Horn of Africa has also affected dynamics between countries in the region1.

As the geopolitical chessboard evolves, the Israel-Palestinian conflict remains a focal point that magnifies the intricate interplay of political, historical, and territorial factors in the Middle East. The ongoing tensions underscore the need for diplomatic efforts and international cooperation to address root causes, fostering a conducive environment for lasting peace and stability in the region.

Role of the US and European Union in Somalia:

The United States and the European Union play pivotal roles in Somalia, exerting influence on political, economic, and security fronts.

United States:

The U.S. engagement in Somalia is multifaceted, encompassing diplomatic, humanitarian, and security dimensions. Historically, the U.S. has provided aid and support for stability efforts, while also addressing counter-terrorism concerns. Military interventions, such as those against extremist groups, exemplify the U.S. commitment to regional security.

European Union:

The European Union, through diplomatic channels and development assistance, contributes to Somalia’s state-building and stabilization. EU initiatives often focus on governance, economic development, and the rule of law. Additionally, the EU participates in collaborative international efforts to address piracy and other security challenges in the region.

Both the U.S. and the EU play roles in supporting peacebuilding initiatives, providing humanitarian aid, and assisting in capacity-building. However, their involvement is not without complexities, as differing priorities among international actors can impact the effectiveness of coordinated efforts.

In summary, the U.S. and the European Union are influential stakeholders in Somalia, contributing to the country’s development, security, and stability through a combination of diplomatic, economic, and security measures.

3. Context Analysis

This paper delves into the intricate geopolitical landscape, examining various facets of conflicts and alliances that shape the international stage. The exploration begins with a nuanced perspective on Ethiopia’s strategic agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland, emphasizing the potential upheaval it could introduce to the Horn of Africa. The analysis adeptly highlights the geopolitical tensions arising from Ethiopia’s pursuit of port access and the impact on Somalia’s sovereignty. By articulating the delicate balance required in regional diplomacy, the paper sheds light on the interconnected nature of geopolitical decisions and their consequences.

The discussion on Somalia’s experience with globalization underscores the broader implications of economic forces on political autonomy. By dissecting how the retreat of sovereignty manifests in Somalia, the analysis skillfully navigates through the challenges posed by global economic trends. It effectively underscores the need for strategic policymaking to reconcile economic integration with the preservation of political autonomy, illustrating the paper’s capacity to connect global dynamics with localized impacts.

The examination of liberal peacebuilding practices by BRICS and Türkiye in Somalia provides a nuanced perspective on how emerging powers approach conflict resolution. The comparison of Brazil’s disconnection with Somalia to Türkiye’s more liberal peacebuilding steps within the BRICS framework adds depth to the analysis. This section elucidates the diverse strategies employed by nations in promoting peace, emphasizing the importance of understanding unique regional dynamics. The analysis concludes with a comprehensive examination of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, showcasing the broader implications on regional stability. This segment adeptly navigates through the geopolitical chessboard, illustrating how interconnected conflicts influence alliances and shape the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape.

In summary, the analysis skillfully weaves through diverse geopolitical scenarios, providing a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by nations. The ability to connect global trends with localized impacts, delve into the complexities of emerging powers’ strategies, and navigate through the intricacies of regional conflicts showcases the paper’s analytical depth. The nuanced exploration of each topic contributes to a holistic comprehension of the geopolitical dynamics in the examined regions, making this paper a valuable contribution to the understanding of global affairs.

The Horn of Africa faces a multifaceted geopolitical landscape with challenges stemming from maritime disputes, regional conflicts, transboundary water disputes, and the influence of global powers. Navigating these complexities requires diplomatic finesse, cooperation, and a nuanced understanding of the interconnected issues at play to foster regional stability and sustainable development.

3.1. Horn of Africa Faces a Multifaceted Geopolitical Landscape with Challenges Stemming from Maritime Disputes

1) The ongoing maritime dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia is exacerbated by the involvement of external actors, notably the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The interests of creating a parallel market for petroleum resources in the region further complicate the matter. This dispute not only strains the bilateral relations between Somalia and Ethiopia but also introduces an economic dimension with potential ripple effects on the stability of the region.

2) The declared war between Western countries and Houthi rebels in Yemen adds a layer of complexity to the regional challenges. The conflict exacerbates security concerns, impacting maritime routes in the Red Sea. This has direct implications for global shipping and raises broader questions about the involvement of external powers in regional conflicts, contributing to an already tense geopolitical environment.

3) The longstanding dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River poses significant challenges to regional stability. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam by Ethiopia has heightened tensions, impacting water resources vital for both nations. This conflict not only has immediate regional consequences but also raises concerns about the broader implications for transboundary water management and cooperation in a region where water scarcity is a pressing issue. The significance of the Nile and Juba-Shabelle basins in the Horn of Africa lies in their central role in various political, social, economic, and environmental processes. The Nile River, encompassing the Blue Nile and the White Nile, serves as a primary provider of water, energy, and food. The Blue Nile holds crucial importance for Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, contributing to social and political tensions and occasional conflicts throughout much of the 20th century (Krampe et al., 2020) .

4) The shadowing influence of geopolitical bodies such as BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and rivalries involving the USA, Britain, Türkiye, among others, introduces a global dimension to the regional challenges. Competing interests and alliances in the Horn of Africa reflect broader global power dynamics. The involvement of these external actors could either exacerbate existing tensions or potentially provide avenues for diplomatic resolutions, depending on the nature of their engagements.

3.2. Factors and Triggers Influencing Geopolitical Problems in the Horn of Africa

1) Territorial Disputes:

Persistent disputes over borders and territories, both historical and contemporary, can escalate tensions and lead to conflicts. Unresolved territorial issues between neighboring countries or regions within countries pose a significant challenge to regional stability.

2) Resource Scarcity:

Competition for scarce resources, including water, arable land, and energy, can exacerbate existing tensions. The Horn of Africa is prone to droughts and resource scarcity, making access to vital resources a potential trigger for conflicts.

3) Ethnic and Tribal Divisions:

Deep-seated ethnic and tribal divisions often intersect with political struggles, contributing to internal conflicts. The region’s diverse ethnic composition can become a source of tension, especially if political representation is perceived as favoring certain groups.

4) Political Instability:

Fragile political institutions and frequent changes in leadership can lead to instability. Power struggles, governance challenges, and weak institutions may create an environment conducive to conflicts and power vacuums.

5) Economic Inequality:

Disparities in economic development and wealth distribution can breed discontent and social unrest. Economic inequality within and between countries in the region may contribute to social grievances and political instability.

6) External Interference:

The involvement of external actors, whether through geopolitical alliances or economic interests, can exacerbate regional tensions. Foreign interventions, particularly those driven by strategic interests, may contribute to local conflicts.

7) Religious and Ideological Differences:

The Horn of Africa exhibits a diverse religious and ethnic landscape. Notably, Somalis are predominantly Muslim, with Islam being a unifying factor among the population. In contrast, other nations in the region, such as Ethiopians, have a significant non-Muslim population, with various religious affiliations.

The religious composition, where Somalis are overwhelmingly Muslim while other nations have diverse religious affiliations, could contribute to potential tensions. Differences in religious identity may become a source of division and influence political dynamics, especially if exploited for political gain.

8) Refugee and Migration Pressures:

Large-scale movements of refugees and migrants, often linked to conflicts or environmental challenges, can strain resources and social structures in host countries. This pressure can lead to heightened tensions and conflicts.

9) Climate Change and Environmental Degradation:

The region’s vulnerability to climate change and environmental degradation can amplify existing challenges. Increased frequency and severity of climate-related events may contribute to resource scarcity and displacement, triggering conflicts.

10) Proxy Conflicts:

Geopolitical rivalries involving external powers may manifest as proxy conflicts within the Horn of Africa. Competing interests and alliances between global actors can fuel regional disputes and exacerbate existing tensions.

11) Transboundary Issues:

Shared resources such as rivers, lakes, and maritime boundaries can become sources of contention. Disputes over the management and utilization of transboundary resources may lead to regional conflicts.

4. Limitations

Acknowledging the limitations as an essential for maintaining transparency and understanding the contextual constraints within which the paper operates, I emphasize the need for cautious interpretation, and encourage readers to seek a balanced understanding of geopolitical dynamics from a variety of sources.

1) The paper relies exclusively on media and online publications as primary sources of information. This limitation may impact the depth and comprehensiveness of the analysis; as online sources might not always provide a holistic view of geopolitical events. Offline and primary sources could contribute additional perspectives and nuances.

2) Online media sources can sometimes carry biases or inaccuracies, potentially influencing the accuracy of the information presented in the paper. Relying solely on online publications may limit access to diverse viewpoints and firsthand accounts that could contribute to a more well-rounded analysis.

3) Online publications often prioritize breaking news, and the paper may not capture the most recent developments due to the time lag between writing and publication. Geopolitical situations evolve rapidly, and the inability to access real-time information may limit the paper’s currency.

4) The paper’s dependence on online sources may restrict opportunities for primary research, interviews, or fieldwork, which could offer deeper insights and a more nuanced understanding of the geopolitical scenarios discussed. Primary research can provide unique perspectives not captured in mainstream media.

5) Relying solely on online sources might exclude perspectives from regions or populations facing digital divides, limiting the inclusivity of the analysis. Offline viewpoints or those not prominently featured in online media may not be adequately represented.

6) Online publications vary in quality and reliability. The paper may encounter challenges in assessing the credibility of sources, potentially affecting the overall trustworthiness of the information presented.

5. Conclusion

The Horn of Africa finds itself at a critical juncture marked by a confluence of complex geopolitical challenges. The maritime disputes between Somalia and Ethiopia, fueled by external influences such as the United Arab Emirates, underscore the intricate dynamics that shape regional relations. Simultaneously, the conflict between Western powers and Houthi rebels in Yemen, the longstanding Nile River dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia, and the shadowing influence of global geopolitical bodies add layers of complexity to the already intricate landscape.

Addressing these challenges demands a nuanced and collaborative approach. Diplomatic efforts must prioritize inclusive dialogues that respect the sovereignty of nations and seek mutually beneficial solutions. The region’s stability hinges on fostering cooperation and understanding among the involved parties. Moreover, the engagement of global powers, both cooperative and competitive, necessitates careful diplomacy to ensure that their influence contributes to regional stability rather than exacerbating tensions.

As the Horn of Africa grapples with these multifaceted challenges, there is an opportunity for constructive dialogue, economic cooperation, and diplomatic resolutions. The interconnectedness of regional and global dynamics calls for a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of conflicts, promotes inclusive development, and respects the diverse interests of the nations involved. By navigating these challenges with a commitment to dialogue, cooperation, and adherence to international norms, the Horn of Africa can strive towards a future characterized by stability, sustainable development, and collaborative regional partnerships.



Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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[3] Geopolitics of the Northwest Indian Ocean: Exploring the Strategic Presence of West Asian States (2022).
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[5] Krampe, F., van de Goor, L., Barnhoorn, A., Smith, E., & Smith, D. (2020). Water Security and Governance in the Horn of Africa. SIPRI Policy Paper No. 54.
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