Balance of power in the new Horn of Africa’s new cooperation

Asad Cabdullahi MataanBy Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

States in the horn of Africa is changing, in Ethiopia full democracy is unveiling, Eritrea is coming back to the world stage and in Somalia shifts of power to the federal government is hoping. Djibouti looks like they are left for reasons unknown to us all. After Ethiopia’s prime minister come to power many changes took place internally and externally. A dream of regional cooperation between horn of African countries emerge from Dr. Aby Ahmed. Let’s welcome any efforts to create good relations, promote good neighborhoods, enhance peace and stability and advance regional integration. but good understanding of how such cooperation benefits every state needs to be carefully researched or foretell. Many questions must be answered by each state policy makers, in every cooperation between states or non-state actors there are losers and winners, who will be the winners or losers of this cooperation?  Many on both sides of the aisle has different questions about the advantages and disadvantages of such cooperation especially the Somalian people whose government is under establishment, whose borders, military, money and foreign policy is not yet fully operational. while Ethiopia has functional government, great military and strong foreign policy but landlocked state.  Eritrea just coming from the shadows and joining the world back after long time of sanctions. Let’s learn from the international relations expert’s argument about balance of power between states. These three states have different powers and stakes, can regional cooperation balance their power? Is balance of power needed before any cooperation? If such cooperation becomes successful, then history will only tell the answers to these questions.

Different school of thoughts in international relations and security theorists examine what a balance of power means A “balance of power” system is one in which the power held and exercised by states within the system is checked and balanced by the power of others.  The minimum requirements for a balance of power system include the existence of at least two or more actors of roughly equal strength, states seeking to survive and preserve their autonomy, alliance flexibility, and the ability to resort to war if need be. No one can question Ethiopia’s hegemony in this region, in today’s world economic cooperation comes with security, Somalia and Eritrea are not equal strength to Ethiopia not only military might but even by population.  Somalia has its own internal subdivisions and competition for power between its federal and its states. Ethiopia’s superior power vs Somali and Eritrea’s weak powers creates a vacuum that needs to be debated and rechecked. But what is the end goal of Somalia’s policymaker’s perspective on this cooperation? Is it to get short term goals to win or get help from internal rivalries like the federal member states powers or win the fight against Al-Shabaab. Because deciding such a big policy needs strategic intelligence assessment without this may carry considerable political costs and uncertain policy risks. For Ethiopia, although internal pressures still exist but this cooperation might be more strategic and more power particularly for their navy. For Eritrea It’s a win, win situation as they have nothing to lose.

When states draft their initial cooperation four things are needed to balance the power of such cooperation –  psycho-cultural balancing, political-diplomatic balancing, strategic balancing and economic balancing. If any consideration is given by the state leaders before they undertake this `cooperation, then balance of power can be withdrawn from the above balancing. For example, if Somalia diplomats rigorously researched the strategic and economic balancing and conclude that it’s their best interest in the present and future time, then such cooperation is advantageous to them unless otherwise it has other failures.

Do they have plans in place to counter incase a state throws its weight on one side of the scale? Mearsheimer claims that “status quo powers are rarely found in world politics, because the international system creates powerful incentives for states to look for opportunities to gain power at the expense of rivals, and to take advantage of those situations when the benefits outweigh the costs.”

The British School’s discussion of balance of power depicts a “manually operated” system, wherein the process of equilibrium is a function of human contrivance, with emphasis on the skill of diplomats and statesmen, a sense of community of nations, of shared responsibility, and a desire and need to preserve the balance of power system. “balance” metaphor was conceived as a law of nature underlying most things we find appealing, whether order, peace, justice, fairness, moderation, symmetry, harmony, or beauty.

The legitimacy will be the biggest obstacle to such horn of Africa’s cooperation. A) None of the three leaders were elected by their people by direct, independent vote. Dr. Aby Ahmed and Farmajo are elected by parliamentary vote, the people didn’t vote for them. B) both didn’t bring or share the details of the cooperation with their respective parliament. C) both have internal subdivisions and internal obstacles. anyone can still view this grand bargain voluntarily struck among the major actors as legitimate and beneficial, but to balance the argument, for cooperation between these states to settle in a peaceful and the will of the people, the negotiators should bring the details to their parliament and give out more detail.

According to Hans Morgenthau, “The aspiration for power on the part of several nations, each trying either to maintain or overthrow the status quo, leads of necessity, to a configuration that is called the balance of power and to policies that aim at preserving it. Also, Arnold Wolfers invoke the “law of nature” metaphor to explain opportunistic expansion: “Since nations, like nature, are said to abhor a vacuum, one could predict that the powerful nation would feel compelled to fill the vacuum with its own power. Is it possible that other powerful nations felt to create such cooperation to fulfil other areas of interest?

Who will be the balancer? a situation that exists when one state possesses the special role of holding the balance (called the balancer) and thereby maintains an even distribution of power between the sides. If Ethiopia becomes the balancer then what is the ultimate promise they gave that no power abuse could happen? In international politics some states may commit an act of deception by entering a cooperation and later defects. the purpose or goal of the cooperation should share publicly for the public to understand what was written between the lines. To convince the public well, the real cooperation, its beneficiaries and stake holders must be known for the citizens of these states to avoid any future danger. The danger is that a predatory great power might gain more than half of the total resources of the system and thereby be in position to subjugate all the rest. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “It does not make sense to adapt a 19th-century concert of powers or a 20th-century balance-of-power strategy. We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism,” she said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in July 2009. “We will lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multipolar world and toward a multiparter world.

Djibouti which shares many characteristics with Somalia sees Eritrea as an adversary, Eritrea is believed to have a portion land and prisoners from Djibouti, this issue has not been solved yet. Although reports indicate that negotiations are in process, but no sign of result is seen yet, if the commitment or promise to finalize that issue and Djibouti get their land back then such cooperation can be initially trusted to begin. The capabilities and reliability of commitments of allies and possible allies must remain strong.  The military and political consequences of the relationships between physical geography, state territories, and state power is another subject under discussion.  power capability includes combinations of the following measures: land area (territorial size), total population, size of armed forces, defense expenditures, overall and per capita size of the economy (e.g., gross national product), technological development, per capita value of international trade, government revenue, and less easily measured capabilities such as political will and competence, combat efficiency, and the like. Ethiopia with a population of 108, 386, 391 compared to estimated 15 million somali population cannot be balanced in many aspects.

In practice, however, various factors diminish the attractiveness of certain alliances that would otherwise be made in response to changes in ideologies, personal rivalries, national hatreds, ongoing territorial disputes and the like. Somalia and Ethiopia were not in good relations for the past centuries, Eritrea and Ethiopia had territorial disputes and hatred before, so new regional cooperation can create trust and long-term stability and development. if this cooperation is made purely strategic reasons to maximize relative gains, then the state with initial dream to form this cooperation in order to achieve their strategic goal benefits while other loss. For example, if the main agenda of Ethiopia is to get out of landlock, find a solution to maximize their profit goals whether its employment for their outnumbered population or find navy bases then the new horn of Africa cooperation is a deception.

today’s friend may be tomorrow’s enemy.

During the Second World War, for instance, the United States was allied with China and the Soviet Union against Italy, Germany, and Japan. After the war, the United States, victorious but wisely having chosen not to eliminate its vanquished enemies, allied with Japan, Italy, and West Germany against its erstwhile allies, the Soviet Union and Communist China. Of course, we are all east Africans all sorts of cooperation’s are needed and that’s the way forward, but things can change tomorrow. Ethiopia may join Sudan-Egypt cooperation leaving horn of Africa cooperation or Somalia may join east Africa community which includes Kenya-Uganda – Tanzania.

President Farmajo’s quick explanation states that Ethiopia had been interfering internal Somali politics for the last 30 years, but he personally talked to former prime-minister to stop such acts, that the new economic cooperation will be advantageous to the people of Somalia, that Somalis are entrepreneurs, that having a close relationship with neighboring countries can bring prospects. For the part that Ethiopia has been spoiling local politics for long time and we are joining them will lessen their threat is bandwagoning behavior, that is, when states join the stronger or more threatening side. So, if Somalia’s intention to join this cooperation to align with stronger Ethiopia to stop the intervention then the following questions can be asked if it’s appropriate or inappropriate to align such a force? This can also be viewed as defensively minded state seeking only to enhance its security and avoid unwanted infiltration, intervention or stop save-heaven to the governments opposition.  Former prime minister of Ethiopia brought such vision around 2002 named Sanaa forum, speaking at Khartoum, Zenawi said that “as the regional organization is established to expand overall cooperation among countries located south of the Red Sea, its door is open to countries, which support objectives of the forum. the forum aims to protect the coasts of the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea through the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the region”. Was Djibouti smart enough not to take part both Sanaa forum and this new cooperation?

Consider Woodrow Wilson’s description of pre-World War I Europe: “The day we left behind us was a day of alliances. It was a day of balances of power. It was a day of ‘every nation take care of itself or make a partnership with some other nation or group of nations to hold the peace of the world steady or to dominate the weaker portions of the world’.

As history moves forward in a progressive direction lets predict that the 21st century generation of east Africans hopes and joins together in the best interest and common good. The changes that took place in Eastern Africa particularly Ethiopia insights a dream of regional cooperation.  History will tell whether positive development come from that dream, I’m more optimistic now than before to the future of east Africans. Sometimes regional cooperation can bring two adversaries together on the same boat but only if it comes directly from them. The balance of power between states cannot be underestimated hopefully this new horn of Africa cooperation brings peace, justice, prosperity, and freedom for all east Africans.

Mahad Wayax

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