Flirting with Hyenas: How External Interests are Fuelling Instability in the Horn of Africa

This study examines how external factors are destabilizing the Horn of Africa region. The objective is to demonstrate how external commercial, geostrategic, political, and military interests are contributing significantly to this phenomenon, and explore options for its mitigation. This study also focusses on the dynamics of the ongoing maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia, and how the dispute is further destabilizing the Horn of Africa region. Using select cases, the study highlights specific interests of several foreign powers in the apparent ‘second scramble for Africa’ in which the region has become an increasingly strategic theatre. This qualitative study is centred on content analysis of secondary data. The study finds that, in recent years, the Horn of Africa region has grown in terms of geostrategic importance; Western, Middle Eastern (especially the Gulf) and Asian powers have been the most active external players in the region, geopolitical struggles from the Gulf and the old West-East divide, and internal factors such as civil wars, interstate conflicts have been causing instability in the region. The region’s governments are thus cautioned against vulnerability and exposure to foreign and external machinations; prioritize responsive governance; adopt preventive bilateral and multilateral diplomacy in dealing with destabilizing regional conflicts; revise regional peacekeeping strategies, mobilize regional counter terrorism efforts in addressing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism; limit foreign influence through regionalism; develop and strengthen regional mechanisms for conflict management; develop closer bilateral cooperation forums and arrangements; and settle territorial questions through negotiated mechanisms. With regard to the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute, the two countries must engage and seek a negotiated settlement, either directly or through a third party, to avoid the unpredictable and likely adversarial outcome from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) whose consequences may be too grave to contemplate.