The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region is composed of an area that serves as a major factor in the global economy. A significant amount of the global trade volume passes through this African part of the Red Sea. The presence of heavy weight world powers and emerging ones to protect their trade and political interests signifies their geopolitical and geostrategic priorities and the significance of the IGAD region as a whole. The region consists of littoral and non-littoral countries and IGAD is supposed to be its regional organization that coordinates economic, political and peace and security concerns of the countries of the region. However, as many scholars agree, it is not well positioned to address the interests of its member states. It seems to be reluctant on the Red Sea crime and geopolitical induced insecurities imperiling the national security of its member states. IGAD’s dominant member, Ethiopia, is making an effort to the rebirth of its navy also indicates the perils facing the IGAD region, the Red Sea and its environs.
IGAD has given its deaf ears when Gulf intervention endangers the unity of one of its member states, Somalia, where the federal arrangement was exposed to the verge of dismemberment. This kind of relationship between unequal partners is exorbitantly high and it seems that IGAD did not understand the ongoing dynamics in the region. IGAD was also silent on the long-standing issue between one of its members, Ethiopia, with Egypt that aspires for the continuation of hydro-colonial agreements, which are against a pan-African and Nile Basin-wide solution, the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).
IGAD, plagued by man-made and natural disasters, is composed of divided hearts and minds. There must be an IGAD that can “execute better, learn faster and change more easily”. The nature of IGAD should be in a way that can respond to the internal and geopolitical dynamics of the region, its environs and the rest of the world. In fact, the political will of member states is crucial to strengthen IGAD, which can be best described by ceding a portion of their sovereignty for the sake of regional integration.
The intergovernmental nature of IGAD could not help bring a speedy political settlement for the South Sudan’s conflict. The long-standing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan over oil resources, the “oil-rich Abiye box”, is still the headache on the region where this case, with the aim of mitigating the problem, is still held by UN forces as insulators. The Eritrean government did not exhibit any effort in making democratic transformations, which can be used as development springboard for the locals and the whole IGAD region. IGAD did not play any role in the Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement process. The process still needs more efforts beyond Abiy-Isayas leaderships’ hard work and IGAD should make political and diplomatic efforts for the rapprochement to be fruitful.
As its name signifies, IGAD is only intergovernmental that serves as a Secretariat coordinating the preparation and implementation of policies. As can be observed clearly, this nature of a regional body is a waste of taxpayers’ money, time and energy. It must be supranational where the policies take precedence over national laws. The intergovernmental nature of IGAD didn’t prevent South Sudan from slipping into a civil war and other protracted conflicts in other member states. It is also evident that this nature has also contributed to delayed performance of regional integration activities in the region. The resources (policies, institutions and finical sources) that are needed to implement regional integration are not controlled by a single common organization. There must be a region wide intervention to bridge national efforts in each member state. Therefore, IGAD should transform itself, with member states ceding their sovereignty, into a supranational organization with rooms for subsidiarity (distribution of competencies among IGAD and member countries), variable speed (determination of progress by the fastest member state) and variable geometry (“an agreement that is not binding on all of the parties to the agreement”) to optimize regional integration.
As can be conferred from various theories, clarity of purpose, facilitative organizational culture, rational organizational structure and process, ability to acquire resources, internal harmony, and satisfaction of internal and external strategic constituencies, adaptive capability and transformational leadership are some of the key determinants of the organizational effectiveness which in turn might help the regional organization to realize its aspirations. IGAD should investigate itself in this light. The overlapping of memberships of member states with IGAD and other regional bodies and current new initiatives formed by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia can be taken as dissatisfaction with IGAD and manifestations of lack of regional integrity and harmony. IGAD’s member states were in a series of stalemate with each other for a long time, and such impasses have not been strategically settled in spite of rapprochement and other kinds of affinities are observed.
The degree of security interaction among IGAD member states is so much higher. The opportunities and threats of neighboring countries are felt to the strongest level. This makes the member states interdependent in security terms. But the security of other regional security complexes such as Middle Eastern states is equally felt in the Horn of Africa. IGAD should strategically positioned itself when it comes to the Red Sea and becomes no more an insulator between the Horn and the Middle Eastern region particularly the security interaction with the Gulf security complex.
IGAD should be serving as a voice for state and human security in its region. The effort in this regard has been virtually non-existent. It should take sides with its member state when conflicts are politicized and internationalized. A common position on such issues can be initiated and taken by regional organizations. IGAD should understand the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has been internationalized by Egypt, and other similar projects as nation-building projects in its region. Such projects can be taken as pace-setting activities that can foster national pride for member states and ignite regional economic integration through energy development and distribution to improve economic and social life in the region.
Moreover, IGAD should also devise strategies that can inform and transform member states that do not have the appetite for democratic reforms. With democratic reforms as regional projects, it will be an opportunity to pave the way for economic integration and nurture social cohesion at the wider region. For example, as one foreign and security authority claims, IGAD can design a package that includes the beaches of the littoral states with tourist sites in land-locked countries. This is very crucial in speeding up regional integration and social cohesion, through popularizing the commendable development efforts in its member states. For example, the GERD initiative, strong military structure and lifting of millions out of poverty in Ethiopia must be taken as a benchmark for regional development and beyond.
Ethiopia and Sudan can no more be non-democratic for they have set the tones for political reform. The reform may fall into the hands of authoritarians unless IGAD reforms itself into a real regional economic community that can influence and facilitate the constructive development of political transitions that is under pipeline in member states. Otherwise, the region will continue to face persistent hiccups.
IGAD must be a body that can understand and analyze the immediate and long-term impacts of internal and external factors to regional security. By considering the current international political, economic and geopolitical complexity and dynamism it is fair enough to conclude that, what happens in one regional security complex doesn’t stay there. The Yemen war, for instance attracted and involved IGAD member states, Sudan, Eritrea ad Djibouti, in one way or another. IGAD member states’ air, land and water spaces were used for the Yemen war. Informed by Iran’s movement in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, some Gulf countries employed aggressive diplomacy accompanied by unprecedented security provision and influence to the Horn countries particularly on Somalia. IGAD has said nothing when these things happen because of external actors. IGAD did not provide conflict resolution platforms when its members, Kenya and Somalia, quarrel over a resource-rich maritime space, which is tribute to lack of I the infrastructure and mechanism to resolve such kinds of conflicts in its domain.
When one recommends the restructure of IGAD, it means that it should understand the spillover effects of political, economic, and social interests of the Middle Eastern region that traverse theories of regional security complex saying that the interaction between distinct security complexes is comparatively low. The interaction coming from the Eastern part of the Red Sea to the Western part is comparatively high. IGAD should understand the adjoining nature of the Red Sea for the Horn and Middle Eastern security complexes. It should also be a vigilant organization that can understand and analyze both the immediate and long-term impact of naval bases in Djibouti. However, It is not a full-fledged regional economic community. It has weak economic and political elements. Hence, rethinking and rebranding IGAD is an urgent task that should be put on the leaders priority list.
This is not the cold war era for where only two ideological camps-imposed security interests. Nowadays, security interests are largely framed by multiple factors and actors, which, in turn signify the future of a multipolar world. Most of the problems in the IGAD region (unemployment, poverty, ethnic strife, power rivalry, authoritarianism, etc.) are generated by actors in the IGAD regional security complex and it can be significantly minimized by political, diplomatic and economic means and synergies mainly initiated and employed by the IGAD member countries.
IGAD should have been an organization that can figure out and provide solutions for the management of unmatched relations between its member states and exogenous forces. The cash diplomacy and political engagement that endangers the whole region must be thoroughly analyzed and regional policy measures must be thought before things are exacerbated, and its strategies should go in line with the geopolitical and strategic realities. The multifaceted challenges such as authoritarianism, clientelism, migration, global and regional powers rivalry, extremism and terrorism, ethnic clashes, resource curse, exclusion, presidency for life, ineffective institutions, porous boundaries, climate change, etc. requires radical changes at the mindset and pragmatic levels. The regional economic integration also requires harmonization of policies between and among member states and this can be done by a relatively powerful organization that gets its mandate from member states that are willing to transcend national boundaries and interests to benefit the collective body and the whole region. The member states should strategically think beyond their borders. Aristotle’s concept of synergy should come here – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. IGAD should go supranational.
Ed.’s Note: Leulseged Girma is a researcher at Institute for Strategic Affairs (ISA). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter and ISA.