The Horn of Africa is becoming one of the most militarised regions of the world as a host of global, national and regional powers vie for dominance. However, the cessation of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea promises a new era of peace and prosperity provided this trend can be nurtured and expanded. The 8th Tana Forum will explore this unfolding development during its annual meeting in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
The theme for this year's Tana Forum, 'Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa', could not have come at a more suitable time--or for that matter, venue. Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's new Prime Minister dubbed by the Financial Times as 'Africa's talisman', will host the event at perhaps the most significant crossroads for the future of the region in modern times.
Ethiopia, the region's economic --and now diplomatic--powerhouse, holds the cards in the Horn's complex and yet unfolding network of alliances and rivalries that go well beyond the continent's geographical boundaries. The situation is pregnant with myriad possibilities--some explosive, some promising. The leaders of the Horn countries will have to navigate a careful path through the increasingly fraught waters.
The rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, ending a two-decade-long feud, is an encouraging step in the right direction and could trigger a series of similar cessations of hostilities among other countries in the region and perhaps usher in an era of peace and increased prosperity all-round.
But, the Horn has also become a battle ground for competing and often bitter rivalry among global superpowers as well as Middle East players, all vying for greater influence and control. Charting a safe course through the labyrinth of all the vested interests will require strategic moves and diplomatic skills of the highest order.
The Horn of Africa has now become the focus of what is being termed a 'Middle East Cold War'. The old bastions of power in the region, the US, UK and France, are being increasingly displaced by new players like Russia, China and a new generation of Middle Eastern powers, with everyone racing to gain a foothold in what is becoming one of the world's most militarised regions.
"The latest incarnation of power play in the Horn," wrote James Jeffrey in the January edition oi New African, "is motivated by the same forces that once had the old imperial powers of Britain, France and Italy tussling over the region: plain old-fashioned rivalry and a desire to control the approaches to the vital shipping avenue of the Suez Canal."
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