What is behind the political changes in the Horn of Africa?

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What is behind the political changes in the Horn of Africa?

The competition between great powers has triggered a string of major political developments in East Africa.

October 9, 2018| Arlaadi Online

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Eritrea's President, Isaias Afwerki receives a key from Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed during a ceremony marking the reopening of the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa on July 16, 2018. [Reuters/Tiksa Negeri]

Eritrea’s President, Isaias Afwerki receives a key from Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed during a ceremony marking the reopening of the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa on July 16, 2018. [Reuters/Tiksa Negeri]

Over the past year, East Africa has seen an unprecedented flurry of political developments that are changing dramatically the political landscape in the region.

Eritrea has emerged out of its diplomatic isolation,signing declarations of peace and cooperation with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia and publicly calling for the lifting of international sanctions. After years of hostility over the building of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Ethiopia and Egypt have seen a significant improvement in relations. Sudan, too,has mended relations with its northern neighbour and has managed to get US sanctions lifted.

Many have welcomed these new political developments with euphoria, believing that they mark a new dawn for East African politics. The Horn of Africa is indeed set for a significant departure from the past, but it is important to note that there are external factors behind these changes.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) appear to be the sponsors of most of these diplomatic efforts, but their role too has been shaped by bigger players. The undercurrent to these changes is the major shift of US foreign and defence policy from the “war on terror” to strategic competition with other global powers, mainly Russia and China

US’ shifting policies

The shift in US priorities in East Africa has also introduced a number of other major changes in the region. First, it has further diminished the importance the US gives to supporting the armies of countries in the Horn of Africa, particularly that of Ethiopia. This means that the Ethiopian army’s role in regional security and foreign policy will diminish, with the exception of UN peace-keeping missions. 

Second, it has strengthened US support for the alliance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, at the expense of Qatari and Turkish interest in the region. Read more What is behind the political changes in the Horn of Africa?

Source: Aljazeera

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