During the Cold War, the Horn of Africa was constantly affected by unexpected and sudden conflicts, tense ideological confrontations, territorial disputes, cross-border destabilization, and continued militarization. Accordingly, prominent authors called the Horn of Africa either a crisis zone or a mere battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The two superpowers were not only deeply involved in the regional states’ political and security affairs, but also consistently encouraged the escalation of a regional arms race in the Horn of Africa. Did such an arms race, wider uncertainties, deliberate interventions, and bitter conflicts disappear after the end of the Cold War?
It can be said that, at least, reasonable hope arose that there would be a new start, especially with the twin demise of the Mengistu and Siad Barre regimes in Ethiopia and Somalia respectively. The hope was that it would be easier to deal effectively with conflicts of varying nature and scope.
Twenty years ago, it was commonplace to hear experts talk about containing confl icts in the Horn of Africa, preventing their further escalation, and even, in the longer run, addressing their root causes.
Yet, in the Post-Cold War period and beyond the dramatic redrawing of its political map, the Horn of Africa still hosts the deadliest cluster of conflicts globally: South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea-Ethiopia, Darfur and Ogaden. Eight times as many people have died in the region’s recent conflicts as have perished in the more publicized Balkan conflicts.
Since the Second World War, no other regional zone of conflicts has produced a greater concentration of deaths and destruction than the Horn of Africa, despite abundant diplomatic initiatives and peace processes. Hence, in terms of sheer human life and the highest rate of population displacement in the world, more is at stake in resolving the deeply inter-linked conflicts in the Horn of Africa than anywhere else in the world.