Eritrea + 4 more

Building for Peace in the Horn of Africa: Diplomacy and Beyond


John Prendergast
Briefly

Already the deadliest conflict cluster in the world, the Horn of Africa has exploded again because of the intensification of the once-improbable Ethiopia-Eritrea war.

Support by Ethiopia and Eritrea for proxy militias in Somalia has reignited the Somali civil war and threatened the south with renewed famine.

The development of the oil sector in Sudan has led that regime to expand its slow-motion campaign of ethnic cleansing, further complicating efforts to rebuild a viable peace process and ensuring the continued destabilization of northern Uganda.

An internationally coordinated diplomatic strategy should be forged for ending the wars throughout the entire Horn region, involving the enhancement of first and second track diplomacy, support for regional dispute resolution capacity, and commitment to post war transition planning.

Buttressing democratic institution building in the Horn is a critical element in a broader conflict resolution strategy, including support for responsive local administration, civil society, open media, future leadership, and democratic processes.

Development aid, trade and investment promotion, regional cooperation strategies, and economic reform advocacy could be integrated much more consciously into strategies that build for a more peaceful future in the Horn.

Introduction

In terms of sheer human life, more is at stake in resolving the wars in the Horn of Africa than anywhere else in the world. Besides the fact that the Horn hosts the deadliest cluster of conflicts globally, there are also increasing incidences of starvation, slavery, child abduction, child soldiers, and ethnic cleansing, as well as the highest rate of population displacement in the world.

Eight times as many people have died in the Horn's current wars (up to 2.5 million) as have perished in the Balkans conflicts, and five times as many Horn residents have been displaced. No zone of regional conflict has produced more concentrated death and destruction since World War II. Despite this, the United Nations spends over ten times per refugee in the Balkans what it spends per refugee in the Horn.

This report reviews thematically the causes of the Horn's conflicts, analyzes current efforts at resolving these wars, and provides an alternative framework of engagement that goes beyond diplomacy aimed at building the institutional basis for future peace.

An Integrated Conflict Zone

There are four major conflicts currently raging in the Horn. The deadliest conflict in this region--and in the entire world--is the sixteen-year-long Sudanese civil war, in which rebel groups from the south, east, and west fight the Government of Sudan for a mixed bag of agendas, including equal rights, democracy, self-determination for the south, and a secular state. Ethiopia and Eritrea are engaged in a fratricidal feud in which thousands of soldiers perish each time there are major confrontations on their common, contested border. Somali factions continue to jostle for control of key towns, ports, and agricultural areas, with the reconstruction of national government still a distant dream. Finally, the Sudan government supports the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in a campaign of destabilization in northern Uganda aimed at punishing the Government of Uganda for its support of Sudanese rebels.

All of these conflicts are linked directly or indirectly. For example, the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has led both governments to increase their military support to rival proxies in Somalia, thus igniting new rounds of deadly conflict, spreading instability to northern Kenya, relegitimizing warlords and destroying hopes for internal peace efforts. At the same time, Ethiopia and Eritrea have reduced their support for the Sudanese opposition, thus strengthening the hand of the Khartoum regime and reducing the likelihood of progressive change in Sudan. In addition, Sudan supports insurgent groups in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda; Somali militias have launched cross-border attacks into Ethiopia and supported Ethiopian oppositionists, while Ethiopian troops have launched assaults into Somalia to create a protective buffer zone; and Uganda has supported the main rebel groups in Sudan. With each new act of violence, with each cross-border arms transfer, the regional dimensions of these conflicts deepen.

The Horn's major wars certainly have political roots: Ethiopia and Uganda seek to protect their security, Eritrea is asserting its sovereignty, the Sudanese regime is promoting Islamic rule, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is pressing for equal rights and self-determination, and Somalis fight for clan rights. Unique issues of justice and international law may be at stake, but common structural causes, including militaristic legacies, economic competition, power struggles, and identity fault lines fuel the initiation and continuation of war.

Militaristic Legacies

Colonialism and empire building in the Horn shattered indigenous institutions, values, and traditions. British, French, Italian, and Ethiopian expansionism set in motion cycles of conflict and created cleavages that continue to be felt a century later. The artificiality of colonial borders is also a factor in the Horn's wars, from the war of Eritrean independence, to the self-determination struggle of the southern Sudanese, to the assertion of sovereignty by Somaliland, to the expansionist aims of some Ogadeni Somalis. All of the states in the region (with the exception of tiny Djibouti) and the insurgencies they support cross borders with impunity in the service of their strategic agendas.

The Cold War further warped the modern historical development of the Horn region. The Horn's proximity to the Persian Gulf, the importance of the Red Sea for oil transit, and its strategic importance for potential naval blockades led to widespread support from the world's superpowers of military regimes to contain the expansionist tendencies of the contending blocs. Billions of dollars of military "aid" and other fungible support reinforced security apparatuses and legitimized brutal governing strategies that have left deep internal divisions in their wake.

When the Cold War ended and military aid ceased, authoritarian governments either collapsed or mutated in an attempt to address the post-colonial interests of donor states, with varying degrees of success or failure. The legacies of a shoot-first approach and overdeveloped military institutions remain fixtures throughout the Horn, often undercutting other positive agendas, such as aspects of those articulated by the current governments in Kampala, Addis Ababa, and Asmara. As is evident throughout the former Soviet Union, rapid change is not a linear process.

Economic Competition

A primary cause of conflict n the Horn is competition over a declining resource base. The history of the region includes massive population movements pushed by other groups and pulled by the search for better pasture, farmland, and water resources. Pastoral migrations are the stuff of legend. The contest for oil and other natural resources will surely produce further realignments of power and population.

The Horn has some of the highest population growth rates in the world. Cultivable land is limited and soils are depleted by intensive farming and grazing. Extreme land and population pressures in northern Ethiopia make its conflict with Eritrea over small border areas a matter of survival for local populations. The Sudan government's policy of low-intensity ethnic cleansing of African populations in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains is driven by its effort to acquire additional prime farm and grazing land for Arab farmers as well as to clear civilians away from oil production and pipeline facilities, the hard currency from which will increase the military capacity of the regime and make compromise more difficult. Much of the fighting in southern Somalia is fueled by competition for agricultural production and marketing control. Military occupation and internal colonialism are often consolidated with the help of neutral aid agency inputs. (The road to hell for some communities is often paved with good intentions.)

The availability of weapons intensifies wars, producing further poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation, resource competition, intercommunal hostility, and social and political breakdown. In semisubsistence economies, the most effective form of attack is to destroy the natural resources an opponent needs for survival, as the Sudan government, the LRA and certain Somali factions have demonstrated, usually avoiding battle with opposing military forces.

Wars in the Horn are exacerbated by the phenomenon of profiteerism, in which economic gain is the motive, ethnicity and fear are the mobilizers, and asset stripping is the favored tactic. Authorities (national, local, or both) with short time horizons perceive that they can gain more from war than from peace. In times of economic contraction, asset stripping becomes an attractive option compared with painstaking democracy building and long-term investment, neither of which guarantees the future political survival of present-day authorities. In extreme cases, famine or scarcity can be profitable: in times of stress, assets are transferred rapidly from poor to rich on terms more favorable to the latter. Somali warlords have come to resemble Mafia leaders, financing their militia cliques through business enterprises and criminal activities. Northern Ugandans fear that corruption in the military linked to continuing instability makes the problem of the LRA more difficult to solve.

Violence against those in power is also linked to asset stripping. Politically motivated opportunism with economic rewards is a driving force behind the violence throughout the Horn. This violence is further fueled by the upward mobility and opportunity that are often best accessed by joining militia forces. These linked phenomena are demonstrated clearly in patterns of violence unfolding in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and Somalia.

In addition to these predatory factors, intra- and interstate disputes over economic policy contribute to conflict. Divergent policies between Ethiopia and Eritrea regarding taxation, protection and expansion of domestic industries, land migration, tariffs, resource transfers, exchange rates, the introduction of an Eritrean currency, trade, and control of contraband added up to fundamental divisions in economic vision for which no resolution mechanism was sustained.

Power Struggles

Another ingredient in the recipe for continuing conflict in the Horn is the contest for control of the state, which in turn leads to control of taxation, investment, trade, patronage, and aid distribution. Unequal access to state power inevitably creates conflict, as those in power attempt to consolidate it and those outside fight to attain it. The fight for power has many faces: nationalism, sovereignty, self-determination, democracy, religion, ethnicity, clan, region. Regardless, the state remains the main channel for the accumulation of wealth and the distribution of benefits, with major implications for the survival or prosperity of groups across the Horn.

These contests for power are never simple in cause or effect. In northern Uganda, legitimate demands of the Acholi people for greater representation in the center and autonomy locally are exploited by the Sudan-supported LRA, a predatory force that enslaves, brutalizes, and forces children to become its soldiers. In Sudan, fundamentalists or their sympathizers, backed by the Khartoum regime, have forcibly gained control of much of the production and marketing infrastructure in northern Sudan and are penetrating into the central and southern parts of the country to ensure control of oil, land, and Nile water flow, thus transforming what was originally a southern war into a national war with multiple fronts. Competing Somali militias have destroyed the state but continue to jockey for position in the event that a state can be reconstructed. The Eritrean government mobilizes its population against Ethiopia in defense of slights to its sovereignty. The Ethiopian government mobilizes its population to defend against Eritrean threats to its security while dispelling perceptions that it cares more about its northern neighbor than it does for some of its own constituents. This continuing contest for power and its subsequent abuse has left most states in the region either collapsed, eroded, or ill equipped to deal with the causes of modern conflict. Ethiopia and Eritrea are examples of ill-equipped states: neither state had an effective mechanism for managing disputes between them, and their refusal to utilize accepted international mechanisms before the disputes turned violent has led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Identity Fault Lines

Malicious expressions ofidentity such as racism, ethnic chauvinism, cultural repression, and religious extremism are primary mobilizing forces for wars in the Horn. Colonial rulers, Ethiopian monarchs, and their successors have fueled tensions by deliberately favoring certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups at the expense of others. These divide-and-rule strategies have created enduring economic, political, and social inequalities that help kindle continuing cycles of rebellion and repression. The Isaaq in Somalia, the Tigrayans in Ethiopia, the Acholi in Uganda, and the Dinka in Sudan are examples of ethnic groups that suffered explicit discrimination from national governments and eventually erupted into violent rebellion.

In Sudan, a clique of political Islamists mobilized a wider group of opportunists and forcibly took control of the state and key assets, perfected the use of starvation as a weapon of war against certain ethnic groups, supported the destabilization of secular neighboring governments, and promulgated a constitution that derives its principal authority from Islamic law. Islamists in Somalia are biding their time, riding a turn to the right in Somali social life while investing heavily in productive and financial enterprises. (al-Itihad, for example, has moved away from being a classic cross-border guerrilla and terrorist movement and toward expanding its economic interests, providing social services, and proselytizing.) The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has brought to the surface virulent forms of bigotry, not suppressed by the governments in either country. Although it has made tremendous strides in political and economic liberalization throughout most of the rest of the country, the Ugandan government has not done enough to address the legitimate grievances felt by the Acholi in the north, which makes the job of destabilization much easier for the LRA and its Sudanese backers.

Diplomacy and Beyond: An Integrated Approach to Building for Peace

Conventional diplomacy alone will not bring an end to any of the multicausal wars in the Horn. Diplomacy--albeit enhanced and better coordinated--is but one element in what must be an integrated and cohesive strategy of building the institutional foundations for peace. This section examines the importance of building more effective peace processes, nurturing democratic institutions, protecting human rights, and promoting equitable economic development as part and parcel of a broader conflict resolution strategy.

Build Effective Peace Processes

Recent developments in the Horn once again demonstrate that ad hoc, ill-prepared, unstained, and uncoordinated diplomatic efforts are not capable of brokering lasting peace agreements. The United Nations, Organization of African Unity (OAU), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the United States, and other interested countries must work more closely together to build the architecture necessary for protracted negotiations, to create focused pressures and incentives on parties to conflicts, to buttress African conflict management capacities, to ensure international coordination and support for the agreed-upon strategy, and to know when to walk away and isolate one, both, or all combatants. "Assertive multilateralism" should apply as much to the U.S. role in Africa as it does in the Middle East or the Balkans.

In Sudan, the best chance for progress is a coordinated inside-outside partnership in which regional governments work with the broader international community to intensify the search for peace. Recent efforts have been aimed at revitalizing a stalled regional peace effort brokered by IGAD and enhancing international support through the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF). The rationale behind this approach is that a full-time Kenyan envoy--backed by other envoys (those of the other IGAD nations and of key IPF countries, including the United States) and a dedicated secretariat, and supported vigorously by an international coalition willing to increase pressures and offer meaningful incentives--stands the best chance of sustaining a successful process. The process is based on IGAD's Declaration of Principles, which addresses issues of governance, equal rights, and self-determination, with a preferred goal of a united democratic Sudan ("conditional unity").

But there are significant obstacles to this end state. IGAD countries have taken too long in moving to revitalize the process, thus jeopardizing international consensus and reducing pressure on combatants. Meanwhile, the Khartoum regime has actively sought parallel interlocutors (e.g., Libya, Egypt, and Malaysia) to create alternative mechanisms to IGAD and thus delay serious negotiations. The procedural delays in the IGAD process have opened the door for the initiation of a parallel process of dialogue between some of the key northern Sudanese opposition figures -- such as former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi -- and the Sudan government. This increases the chances that opposition parties will be picked off one by one by the government, thus decreasing the chances of an approach that addresses the particular grievances of the south in the context of a national solution. Ironically, this will lead to an increase in separatist tendencies in the south, the opposite result from that which is sought by proponents of this parallel dialogue, such as Egypt.

Consequently, the opposition umbrella National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is fissuring over peace process strategy (such issues as representation at peace talks, southern versus national solution, religion and the state, and rejoining a coalition government in Khartoum). As other venues for dialogue between northern NDA parties and the Sudan government are explored, it is imperative that one overall process be maintained as the principal negotiating channel. A united NDA with one unified peace process is essential to forward movement on the negotiations front.

To overcome these roadblocks, the United States must become even more assertive in its promotion of forward movement in the process. The enhanced IGAD peace process must be fully functioning so that protracted negotiations can take place during the rainy season in the latter half of 1999.

The IPF should develop a calibrated set of focused and graduated incentives and pressures to be deployed at key junctures to remove bottlenecks and generate political heat. At this point, the United States is the only country in the world that is willing to maintain serious political pressure on Khartoum. To enlist other countries in this effort, the peace process itself should become the mobilizing factor for multilateral pressure. Neither side can win the war outright, but the regime will not make compromises without much greater internal and external pressure.

A key element of the external pressure needed to encourage the regime to negotiate must be the provision of material support such as food and medicine directly to the Sudanese opposition. Such support would also enhance the capacity of the people of the south, the Nuba Mountains and other besieged areas to withstand attacks against their livelihood bases. If the regime is able to capitalize on its internal oil production and the opposition receives no compensatory support to maintain internal pressure, there is little hope that Khartoum will perceive any reason to negotiate, and it will be able to carry out its campaign of ethnic cleansing around the oil pipelines and prime agricultural areas with impunity. The failure of the so-called frontline states (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda) to fulfill fully their pledges of military support to the opposition necessitates a search for alternative patrons.

A clear strategy for the negotiations also needs to be articulated, centered around a comprehensive solution based on the Declaration of Principles. If no progress is made on the national issues after an intensive initial effort, the parties must agree to disagree and move on to the modalities of the referendum and interim arrangements. During the initial rounds focusing on national questions, governments that have a major interest in seeing a comprehensive solution that addresses the root causes of the national issues can bring pressure to bear on Khartoum. Premature efforts to negotiate the terms of reference for a self-determination referendum without demonstrating a serious effort to negotiate the national questions would be naïve at best. The regime will not give away its economic future--oil, land, and the planned Jonglei Canal. It will have to be pressured into a meaningful process, agreement, and implementation. Only through international pressure, regional support, and unity of the opposition umbrella NDA will there be a chance for a positive outcome at the negotiating table.

The United States can play a major role in moving the process forward, particularly if it can harmonize its important efforts at countering the Khartoum regime's support for terrorism and human rights violations with its increased vigor in support of peace efforts.

Some of the energy that is going into revitalizing the Sudan peace process should be channeled into supporting conflict management efforts in northern Uganda. Consultations with the Ugandan government and other interested parties should be undertaken to determine whether any opportunities exist for the initiation of a serious peace process. Formal negotiations with a party (such as the LRA) that has no identifiable political platform and a messianic leader would be extremely challenging. In contrast to the Sudan case, the art of the deal will be in the substance of the offers concerning the disposition of the leadership rather than any sustained process of compromise on northern Uganda's future. The Ugandan Government has managed successfully past sources of opposition in this manner.

Though not yet successful, the best example of a cohesive peace process in the region is the international community's coordination in trying to resolve the Ethiopian-Eritrean war. The United Nations, OAU, United States, and Rwanda have all at times taken leading mediation roles, taking care not to disrupt the ongoing initiatives of others. This coordination will increase as peace efforts are stepped up in the coming months.

Somalia has suffered from the inverse: too many uncoordinated, ill-prepared, and unsustained initiatives that catered to the predilections of the warlords and sustained their legitimacy and impunity. This is a time when internal organic processes must be allowed to bear fruit, and outsiders must realize their initiatives will be manipulated and will likely extend conflict. As Ethiopia and Eritrea jockey for position regionally to advance their war aims, IGAD and IPF peace efforts have been completely undermined. External efforts should focus on discouraging Ethiopian and Eritrean military involvement in Somalia, enforcing the UN Security Council arms embargo, and supporting genuine Somali efforts to reconstruct legitimate local and regional authority.

Owing to the multiple layers of divisions in the Horn, peacemaking must occur on numerous levels. In particular, local-level Track II approaches to conflict management and reconciliation are key. For example, organic peace conferences in 1993 and 1996 have led to stability in Somaliland. The Dinka-Nuer reconciliation conference held in March 1999 in southern Sudan is an important adjunct to broader peacemaking, and the implementation of the provisions of their agreement and follow-on process should be fully supported. Religious leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) there and in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and northern Uganda have undertaken reconciliation initiatives which should be watched closely and supported when appropriate. Future Track I efforts should be cognizant of such grassroots initiatives.

Support for or creation of conflict management and dispute resolution mechanisms in the Horn should also be part of a diplomatic strategy. For example, some kind of institutional capacity for early intervention in border disputes and guarantees for border security are needed, either between countries or as a standing regional capacity. Efforts to build IGAD's capacity could focus on this objective.

Priority should also be given to the processes of postwar transition or settlement planning. This involves international coordination in conceptualizing postsettlement needs, such as reconstruction, demobilization, and political institution building. It also involves supporting local capacities for transition planning, such as those of the NDA, which will play an important role in consensus building about the substance of future democratic governance in Sudan. It is important that visions of economic and political reconstruction be vetted internally throughout affected societies even before settlements are reached; donors and national governments should not be the only participants in post-war rebuilding.

Finally, it should be noted that the leverage of the United States cannot be judged solely on the amount of aid it provides. There is and will remain a cachet that U.S. involvement brings to any peace initiative, and this should not be minimized.

Furture Democratic Institutions

Transparent, participatory, and responsive governance is a key element in building peace, as are other components of democracy such as an open media and a healthy civil society.

Local government and decentralization can be important building blocks for democratization and conflict reduction. Any strategy aimed at bringing peace to northern Uganda must increase the confidence that the Acholis have in the structures of governance in the north. The Ugandan government's new policy of decentralization is an opportunity to create a social contract between the government and the local populace. Confidence that government can help improve food security, deliver services, and respond to citizens' needs may do more than anything else to create the "political infrastructure" necessary to support the implementation of a potential peace agreement, or, absent an agreement, even to lure out individual militia members from the LRA's control. The Ugandan government could actually benefit from the diverse experience of Ethiopia and Eritrea, where both governments have undertaken serious efforts at building the capacity of local and regional administration. Any diplomatic effort therefore should be tied directly to promoting better governance through the decentralization process in northern Uganda.

In Sudan, if the SPLM is to engage effectively in peace efforts and to be prepared to implement a peace agreement, its civilian leadership capacity must be greatly enhanced. Concepts of citizen participation, rule of law, sustainability, and reciprocity between governing and governed must achieve wider circulation and commitment. Increased participation and inclusivity will strengthen the SPLM, prepare the south for its future, and reduce warlordism and authoritarianism. One of the principal ways for these objectives to be reached is through the development of the SPLM's civil administration structures. The U.S. government's Sudan Transitional Assistance for Rehabilitation (STAR) program, designed to support democratic institution building in opposition-held areas of Sudan, can hasten the development of responsive administration in opposition-controlled areas throughout Sudan, and congressional calls for its doubling should be heeded.

In Somalia, building relevant institutions from the bottom up has emerged as the best strategy of state reconstruction. As Matthew Bryden and others have noted, Somali history demonstrates the need for decentralized power sharing with checks and balances. Evidence also points to a direct correlation between a strong regional or district authority and a weak political Islamist presence. To be effective, external interlocutors must differentiate between warlords, genuine authorities that result from imperfect but participatory processes, and political Islamist groups such as al-Itihad, which seek to exploit Islamic revivalism for political ends.

It is a major mistake that more development aid is not being directed toward institution building in Somalia and Somaliland to counter the vacuum now being filled dangerously by warlords and political Islamists, especially at the regional level where it is more difficult for security frameworks, rule of law, and social services to be overwhelmed militarily or bought out. Administrations in Somaliland (the northwest) and Puntland (the northeast) have been created through participatory processes, and though Somaliland has advanced its institution-building efforts further and there is respect for the government's role of mediation, both should receive aid to help consolidate structures.

Civil society (NGOs, unions, religious organizations, etc.) is also key in managing conflict by broadening participation, engendering debate, enhancing accountability, and providing excluded groups with a political voice. Supporting civil society organizations should be a key component of postwar peace consolidation strategies of donors like the United States in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Both of these countries have been overly restrictive regarding freedom of association, thus leading to fewer independent voices that might in the future create constituencies for peace advocacy.

Quite the opposite phenomenon exists in some areas of Somalia, where anarchic civil societies put pressure on political-military leaders to stabilize their areas. Intelligent, well-researched support for Somali civil society--particularly elements advocating for peace--should continue and increase. The same should hold for northern Uganda as well as opposition- and government-controlled areas of Sudan. A good political officer equipped with a few quick-disbursing and flexible resources is all that is needed in some of these circumstances.

Advocacy for open media and support for peace media can contribute to conflict management. Countering negative propaganda in Ethiopia and Eritrea, supporting peace radio programming in Somalia and northern Uganda, and enhancing the capacity of the NDA's radio station to promote democracy in Sudan would be helpful to the larger cause of peace.

Finally, the United States and other donors can assist the conflict managing impacts of democratization by supporting the people, parties, and processes that are central to democracy. This involves developing a cadre of future leaders through training programs and leadership enhancement workshops, supporting the development of political parties, and ensuring that electoral processes--not just elections themselves--are conducted fairly. Perceived short-term strategic imperatives should not diminish U.S. advocacy for democratization. Although U.S. support for Sudan and Somalia during the Cold War provides more dramatic examples of the links between a lack of democracy and war, lower standards for pluralism and freedom of association in Ethiopia and Eritrea during their post-war transitions in the mid-1990s relative to some other African states (an approach for which I admit having been a proponent) may have contributed indirectly to the conditions that made the current war possible.

Protect Human Rights

The pursuit of peace should not diminish human rights considerations. Protecting human rights is key to the process of creating conditions for peace. Calls for an easing of U.S. isolation of Sudan as an incentive for peace before the regime changes the way it treats its own citizens are misplaced and would make it even more difficult to induce compromise from Khartoum.

Certainly one immediate lesson from Kosovo is the importance of setting forth minimum demands based on fundamental principles and sticking to them regardless of short-term criticism. Having accepted that premise, U.S. commitment to easing the Sudan regime's isolation in response to a verifiable set of implemented reforms--not just promises--might contribute greatly to a set of focused, graduated multilateral incentives and pressures packaged together by the IPF and utilized in the context of the peace process. U.S. credibility and effectiveness are maximized if the United States does not prematurely ease its isolation of Khartoum.

Certain Somali warlords, LRA militia leaders, and Sudanese political and military leaders--northern and southern--who have committed serious abuses must be held accountable in some way, whether through international or domestic prosecution, travel restrictions, reparations, disqualifications from public service, commissions of inquiry, or truth commissions. Offers of amnesty, such as those made by the Ugandan Government to the LRA, should be tied to some form of inquiry so that at least a public record can be created of crimes against humanity. Given the Ugandan government's use of participatory mechanisms to address other national questions, perhaps it could initiate some kind of consultation with northern populations on how to deal with the gross abuses perpetrated by the LRA.

Human rights monitoring can help ensure that the fundamental human rights causes and historical roots of the crises at hand are confronted. Monitors could be utilized effectively in all of the conflict areas of the Horn, not only to prevent and bear witness to abuses, but also to train and build the capacity of national and local mechanisms for prevention. Investigators could also be deployed to uncover the facts surrounding specific issues, such as the markets for and official involvement in slave trafficking in Sudan or the deportation of Ethiopians of Eritrean descent from Ethiopia.

Rule of law is also fundamental in conflict prevention and management. Unfair judicial systems can worsen inequalities and support the arbitrary use of power. This is the case in northern Uganda, where soldiers appear to enjoy immunity despite evidence of human rights abuses in the context of counterinsurgency operations. Because of these abuses, the government has trouble maintaining the moral high ground that LRA atrocities should guarantee. The United States and other donors should invest in justice and law enforcement capacity building in northern Uganda and engage the Ugandan government in making an institutional commitment to enhance the legal system in the north. This commitment includes reducing court delays, strengthening investigative capacity, and creating more transparency and consistency in the prosecution of soldiers accused of crimes and rights violations.

In opposition-controlled areas of Sudan, the U.S. STAR program can help build the foundation for the rule of law. As the SPLM tries to create an overall legal framework, STAR could support deliberations over the framework, review and disseminate laws, and train personnel such as paralegals. This kind of support must be accompanied by vigorous advocacy for impartiality, due process, and accountability for crimes committed by soldiers. It also widens the window for human rights advocacy. For example, nearly a quarter of a million Sudanese perished during the Dinka-Nuer fighting that followed the 1991 split within the SPLA. Now that Nuer commanders are finally realizing how badly they have been manipulated by Khartoum, governments should press the SPLA to treat returning Nuer with a soft touch.

Promote Equitable Economic Development

Development assistance, trade and investment promotion, and economic reform advocacy can be important tools in building for peace in the Horn. These initiatives can be used to address root causes of conflict, increase and broaden wealth creation opportunities, equalize access to services, and create incentives for peace. The U.S. government's Greater Horn of Africa Initiative was launched precisely to integrate conflict management objectives with development priorities. Its effectiveness should be examined, and Congress should grant more flexibility for using emergency funds for development purposes. Much more could be done bilaterally and multilaterally, including the promotion of the following:

Wealth Creation: Underdeveloped areas can be targeted and productive assets can be rehabilitated with the specific objective of building for future peace. In southern Sudan, a strategy of supporting the rehabilitation of livelihoods should be expanded into a more comprehensive economic policy, which could include offering a sanctions exemption for American investment in natural resource development in SPLA-held areas, backhauling locally produced goods to stimulate trade, developing investment codes, implementing uniform tax policies and promoting cooperative farms.

Investment and Commerce: Directing investment to underserved areas can reduce tensions and increase interest in defusing conflict. Promises of help in attracting investment to post-war (for the second time) Ethiopia and Eritrea, to export-producing regions of Somalia and Sudan (provided the products are not from areas that have been occupied or pacified militarily) and to micro-industries in northern Uganda could be part of broader packages of incentives for peace. Differentiating Somaliland's progress and stability from the rest of the country in official security assessments would reduce investor fears.

Cross-Line Programming: Aid programs can be designed to bring hostile communities together for specific purposes. The recent Dinka-Nuer peace agreement in southern Sudan could be reinforced by aid agencies agreeing to redeploy their programs in ways that enhance intercommunal cooperation, such as child vaccinations, animal health programs, education, training initiatives, and population resettlement efforts. This policy could also apply to cross-border scenarios, such as along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border when it is demarcated.

Regional Cooperation: Initiatives that address shared threats or create opportunities for regional development can also help build for peace. IGAD must become a more credible actor in this regard. If it had been, some of the past issues that led to the eruption of the Eritrean-Ethiopian dispute could have been confronted earlier. If it cannot improve its credibility in the near future, aid to the organization should be discontinued.

The Way Forward

The path to peace in the Horn will be long and fraught with obstacles. During the past year, the Clinton administration has increased its efforts on behalf of peacemaking in the region, particularly in the Sudanese and Ethiopian-Eritrean conflicts. But much more can be done, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Establishing a set of clear objectives, committing more focused aid and diplomatic resources, and building the international coalitions in support of the objectives could enhance greatly the chances of peace in the world's most violence-prone region.

Other Resources on the Horn of Africa by John Prendergast

  • "Conflict and Crisis in the Greater Horn of Africa," Current History, May 1999 (with Ken Menkhaus)
  • "Liberation Politics in Ethiopia and Eritrea," in Ali and Matthews, eds., Civil Wars in Africa: Roots and Resolution (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press), 1999 (with Mark Duffield)
  • Crisis Response: Humanitarian Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia (London: Pluto Press) 1997
  • Frontline Diplomacy: Humanitarian Aid and Conflict in Africa (Boulder: Lynne Rienner), 1997
  • Without Troops and Tanks: Humanitarian Intervention in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Princeton: Red Sea Press), 1994 (with Mark Duffield)
  • Civilian Devastation: Abuses in the War in Southern Sudan (New York: Human Rights Watch), 1994 (with Jemera Rone)


About the United States Institute of Peace

The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan federal institution created by Congress to promote research, education, and training on the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. Established in 1984, the Institute meets its congressional mandate through an array of programs, including research grants, fellowships, professional training programs, conferences and workshops, library services, publications, and other educational activities. The Institute's Board of Directors is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.

About the Report

This report results from recent trips to the Horn of Africa by John Prendergast, Executive Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and previously Director of African Affairs at the National Security Council. This report is the first of two that explore more multifaceted approaches to African conflict resolution. A subsequent report will address conflict in Central Africa. The reports draw on Prendergast's experience in international negotiation, human rights investigation, grassroots development, democracy promotion and humanitarian response.

For information on additional Special Reports, please e-mail the USIP Office of Communications, or call (202) 429-3828. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.