Kaleab holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations and an M.A. in International Relations, both from Addis Ababa University. He got his Ph.D. in Military Science from the University of Public Service, Doctoral School of Military Sciences, in Budapest, Hungary. His research interests are peace support operations, foreign policy, military doctrine, defense policies, and peace and security issues in the Horn of Africa. Currently, he is a researcher at the Research Department of International and Regional Security, Ethiopian Defence War College. Before his role at the War College, he was a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Ambo University. Kaleab also published a book on the Constitutional History of Ethiopia.

States of the Horn of Africa:an overview

The ideas of regional security and security complexes are essential as every state can put its security in relation to at least one complex. Ethiopia’s security is tied up with its regional complex of the Horn of Africa and vice versa, and how it undoubtedly takes this into consideration when considering its national security. The Horn of Africa is located in the Northeastern part of the continent consisting of eight countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda. The nine states are also members of the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which make the member states to be considered the regional complex that reflects an interlinked regional security complex.1 Except for Uganda, Ethiopia shares a border with all the member states.

The Horn of Africa region is the origin of
humanity. Fossil remains of Chororapithecus
Abyssinicus, which lived 12 to 7 million years ago,
were found in the Afar Depression of Ethiopia,
and the most famous of the discovery in the same
area is Lucy ‘Dinkenesh’, the complete skeleton
of an early hominid yet found and dating back
some 3.2 million years. The Aksumite Empire,

in present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, was a well- known empire in pre-colonial Africa. In the Middle Ages, the Ifat Sultanate of present day Djibouti, Adal Sultanate of present-day Somalia, the Zagwe dynasty of Ethiopia, the Mahdist in Sudan, the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda, and other sultanates and kingdoms existed in the region.

European powers became more interested in the region to occupy after the Suez Canal opened in 1869. The French colonized a small portion of the land at the Red Sea coast, which they named French Somaliland which later becomeDjibouti in 1894. The British took over northern
Somalia, which they named British Somaliland
in 1887, the present-day autonomous region
of Somaliland. Furthermore, in the south, the
Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888,
which later become Kenya, and in 1894 Uganda became a British protectorate, and the Anglo- Egyptian colony of Sudan was established in 1899. Italy took possession of Eritrea in 1890 as well as southern Somalia, Italian Somaliland, in 1889. However, Ethiopia did not fall under the colonial yoke because they could defeat the Italian Empire in 1896 except for Ethiopia’s brief occupation (1936 – 1941).

Today the region consists of two of the nine newest states globally, Eritrea and South Sudan.

During the Cold War, both the USSR and the United States were involved in the region because of its strategic location. For example, in the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1977 – 78, USSR supported the Ethiopians and the United States aided Somalia. Most recently, the region has become one of the focuses of the global war on terror. Today the region consists of two of the nine newest states globally, Eritrea and South Sudan. Moreover, Somaliland is striving to be one since 1991 by establishing the most stable state and conducting a peaceful government transition in the region by challenging the image of war and disaster that has been associated with the region.

In Michael Sheehan’s words, the Horn of Africa’s security complex Africa is ‘held together not by the positive influences of shared interest, but by shared rivalries. The dynamics of security contained within these levels operate across a broad spectrum of sectors – military, political, economic, societal and environmental.3 Andras Hetteyey and Viktor Marsai said the following about Ethiopia and the Horn of African security complex:

Ethiopia is the region’s leading political and military power; Ethiopia is involved in all three conflicts (Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia civil war, and Ethiopia – Eritrea). Addis Ababa commands enormous respect not only in Eastern Africa but on the entire continent. Except for Liberia – whose status remains unclear – Ethiopia, with its several thousand- year-old statehoods, was the only state on the entire continent that was able to withstand both Western and Eastern colonization attempts (save for a brief Italian occupation during World War II). What is more, the country’s prestige extends beyond Africa: Ethiopia is the main ally of the United States in the region. Despite its economic difficulties and extremely low living standards, the country’s leadership is able to maintain the strongest and most capable armies not only in the region but on the whole continent. Its armed force has extensive experience in both traditional and asymmetric warfare. Ethiopia uses its political and military power to contribute to the stability Eastern African proto-complex while it also serves as an insulator between the various regional conflicts – the two Sudan and Somalia.

However, regarding ‘the question of whether the Horn of Africa forms, in Buzan’s terminology, ‘a security complex’, based on the security dynamics in the region, and using Berouk Mesfin’s terminology, ‘the answer is a definite yes.’ The Horn of Africa displays many of the features of a Regional Security Complex.

The Horn of Africa Regional Security Complex

In the words of Christopher Clapham, ‘It will
already be abundantly clear that the states of the Horn are deeply affected by their relationships with one another.5 According to Barry Buzan and Ole Waever the interstate security dynamics in Africa are often simply spillovers of domestic dynamics, mainly refugee flows, expulsions of foreigners, and civil wars and intervention by neighbors in domestic turbulence.6 In the Horn of Africa proto-regional security complex (proto- RSC), the usual interaction is cross-border interventions in which the government in each state supports insurgencies in the other: Somalia and Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda, Sudan and Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.7 On the other hand, Robert Kłosowicz considered the IGAD the regional bloc as the regional complex that reflects an interlinked regional security complex.8 In the Horn of Africa, there are few incidents of states going to a conventional war with each other. However, it is more at the sub-state level and more about spillovers from domestic instabilities, which is typical almost for all states in the region. Particularly during the Somalian and the South Sudanese civil wars, the spillover effects, became excruciating for the whole states in the region.

South Sudan and Somalia ranked first and second, respectively, as the most fragile states globally, and Djibouti has a relatively better- performing state in the region. Regarding UNDP Human Development Index, all Horn of Africa states perform under the last 30 states out of 188 Countries, Sudan and Uganda performing relatively better than other states and Eritrea becoming the last. On the Ibrahim Governance Index in Africa, Kenya and Uganda perform better than the rest, and Somalia ranked 54 out of the 54 African states.

Similarly, on Transparency International’s Corruption index, Ethiopia performs relatively better than the others though all are under 100 out of 180 states, Somalia and South Sudan ranked 180th and 179th, respectively. Based on World Bank – Worldwide Governance Indicators first on Voice & Accountability, which is perceptions of the extent to which a country’s citizens can select their government and freedom of expression, freedom of association, and free media. However, all Horn of Africa states are below 50% relatively Kenya is better, and Eritrea is the worst. Second, on Political Stability & Absence of Violence/Terrorism, Djibouti and Uganda are around 20%, and the rest is less than 10%.


As of 2021, there are more than dozen peace support missions in the region

Third, on Government Effectiveness, Somalia and South Sudan are both below 1%, and Kenya is relatively better though all the states are performing below 50%. Forth, Regulatory Quality is the perception of the government’s ability to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development. However, all Horn of Africa states are below 50%, relatively Uganda and Kenya are better than the rest. Fifth, the Rule of Law in all Horn of Africa states is below 50%, and Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya ranked from first to third. Sixth, Control over Corruption; similarly, all Horn of Africa states are below 50%, but Ethiopia and Djibouti are better performing than the rest.

On the issues of peace and security, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, since 1990, the Horn of African region has suffered from 32 state-based armed conflicts where a government is one of the belligerent parties. Moreover, 179 non-state armed conflicts were fought between non-governmental groups; and 22 campaigns of one-sided violence where civilians are massacred.9

Trends of Peace Support Operations and Political Missions in the Horn of Africa

There is also a high presence of multinational military operations in the region. As of 2021, there are more than dozen peace support missions in the region, namely in Sudan; the Abyei Sudan–South Sudan border; Somalia; and South Sudan. In the past, there were missions in Somalia, in the Ethiopia- Eritrea border, in the Uganda-Rwanda border, and Sudan. Also, there are thousands of foreign troops in Djibouti, which indicates the gravity of security challenges in the region. From the first UN mission in the region in 1992 until 2019, there were 19 multinational peace support operations by AU, EU, IGAD, and UN.

Peace Support Operations in the Horn

As of September 2019, the UN has 14 peacekeeping operations across the world. Seven missions are in Africa, and out of it, three of them are in the Horn of Africa, in Darfur (hybrid with AU), in Abyei in South Sudan. AU has six operations, out of which, three are in the Horn of Africa, in Somalia, in Darfur (hybrid with UN), and in countries affected by LRA, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda. The regional organization Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has one ceasefire monitoring operation in South Sudan. In addition to these, the EU, the UN Department of Political Affairs, and the UN Department of Field Support also have peace support operations in Somalia.

Unlike traditional UN peacekeeping, most Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) in both UN and AU peace support operations in the Horn of Africa are from immediate neighboring states.

Unlike traditional UN peacekeeping, most Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) in both UN and AU peace support operations in the Horn of Africa are from immediate neighboring states. Moreover, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda are among the top ten most significant contributors of uniformed personnel for multilateral peace support operations globally, Ethiopia being first, Uganda fifth, and Kenya tenth.

Some scholars argue that the UN ‘breaks with a long-standing principle of not allowing a country to engage in a peace support operation in a neighboring country.10 The reason being most next-door neighboring countries are already involved in the conflict, or they might not be impartial. However, all current peacekeeping operations of UN and AU in the Horn of Africa are mostly comprised form next-neighboring countries and resulting in remarkable conflict management outcomes.

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM):

AMISOM, created in January 2007 by AU’s Peace and Security Council, is the longest and largest peace support mission run by AU. The mission’s main strategic objectives are ‘to enable the gradual handover of its security responsibility to Somali security forces, reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, and assist Somali security forces in providing security for Somalia’s political process and peacebuilding efforts.11 As of April 2022, AMISOM was replaced by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) with a mandate to fully implement the Somali Transition Plan (STP).

United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)

UNSOM was established on 3 June 2013 in support of the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia.12 Its mandates are to provide United Nations ‘good offices’ functions; support the Government’s peace and reconciliation process by providing strategic policy advice on peacebuilding and state-building; assist international donor support, particularly security sector assistance and maritime security; and help to monitor violations of human rights. Uganda contributed two experts on the mission and 530 contingent troops, which is 96% of the whole personnel in the mission.

United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS):

UNSOS was established on 09 November 2015, replacing the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), which was established in 2009 as a logistical field support operation to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) led by the United Nations Department of Field Support (DFS).13 UNSOS is responsible for support to AMISOM, UNSOM, the Somali National Army (SNA), and the Somali Police Force (SPF) on joint operations with AMISOM.14 Only Uganda contributed one expert on a mission for UNSOM from the Horn of Africa. The mission has 49 personnel, and the UK contributed the whole 42 contingent troops, and Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone all send one expert on the mission and Mauritania two.