From revolution in Sudan, to Al Shabaab’s increasing regional reach and Ethiopia’s burgeoning political transformation, the Horn of Africa is in turmoil. The Horn, a new podcast series from the International Crisis Group, helps make sense of it all. Host Alan Boswell and guests explore what lies behind the headlines as they discuss ways to help bring peace and stability to the region.
With special thanks to our host, Alan Boswell (https://twitter.com/alanboswell), and our producer Maeve Frances (https://twitter.com/maevefrances).
Episode 15: What Eritrea Wants
The international community has long viewed Eritrea as a pariah state, yet the country’s influence is rising again in the turbulent Horn of Africa region. For more than a decade, Ethiopia and the West pushed the country’s regime under President Isaias Afwerki into survival mode. But with the political transition in Ethiopia, and Eritrea’s alliances with Gulf powers across the Red Sea, Asmara is once again looking to shape the region in its favour.
Harry Verhoeven, a scholar on international politics in Africa, joins Alan Boswell to unpack Eritrea’s rising influence in the region and what it means for regional order and stability. They discuss President Isaias Afwerki’s survival techniques and his ties with the Gulf states. Harry also describes the complex alliance between Asmara and Addis Ababa amid the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and whether President Afwerki could be willing to withdraw Eritrean troops from Ethiopia for tactical purposes. They also look at escalating tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia and where the shifting power relations in the Horn of Africa are headed.
For more information:
The Horn S2 E3: Eritrea's One-man Rule.
Harry Verhoeven and Philip Roessler, Why Comrades Go to War: Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa's Deadliest Conflict, Oxford University Press.
Bonus episode : Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis and Horn of Africa Politics (from the Crisis Group podcast Hold Your Fire!)
In this episode of Crisis Group's podcast Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood, Crisis Group’s interim president, and guest host Comfort Ero, our interim vice president and Africa Program director, talk to Murithi Mutiga, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa director, about the fighting in Tigray and its implications for regional politics. Murithi sheds light on the calculations of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, rebel Tigray leaders and Eritrea, which has also sent forces into Tigray. He talks through the Horn of Africa’s evolving geopolitics, growing friction between Ethiopia and its neighbours, and the state of play of both Ethiopia’s and Sudan’s transitions. He looks at what continental and world leaders need to do to end the Tigray crisis and calm escalating regional tensions.
For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ethiopia page.
S2 Episode 14: Tanzania's Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu on Politics after Magufuli
The death of President Magufuli, a populist authoritarian and COVID-denier, officially from a heart failure, raises questions about whether newly sworn-in President Samia Suluhu Hassan will change course or maintain her predecessor’s authoritarian track. Tundu Lissu, Tanzania’s main opposition leader, joins Alan Boswell this week to discuss the late President Magufuli’s legacy and policies in Tanzania.
Tundu says President Magufuli’s death is an opportunity to reverse trends and ensure accountability in the country. He expects Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s first woman president, to reverse the government’s response to Covid-19, as well as a variety of other policies pursued by Magufuli over the past five years.
Tundu tells Alan his biggest fear is the influence of the security forces, which amassed tremendous power under Magufuli, and hopes for a general improvement in the political atmosphere to secure democracy in Tanzania. He also answers Alan’s question on whether he plans to run again for president in the next elections.
S2 Episode 13: What Does Reconciliation among Gulf States Mean for Africa?
The Gulf dispute over Qatar’s foreign policy has spilt over into the Horn of Africa. In trying to shape the regional landscape in their respective favours, Gulf states have intensified proxy conflicts in the Horn of Africa and Libya and made them harder to resolve. The January 2021 al-Ula declaration ends the blockade of Qatar and promises an end to the rift between them, at least formally, but will it lead to a de-escalation of their rivalries abroad?
Elham Fakhro, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the Gulf States, joins Alan Boswell to discuss how Gulf states’ reconciliation might impact their foreign policy choices in the Horn of Africa, in particular. She unpacks the vested interests they have in the region and how they can engage constructively in countries like Sudan and Somalia. She tells Alan that additional dialogue among Gulf states to further resolve their disputes over foreign policy is still needed and says the upcoming elections in Somalia may be a test of what’s to come.
For more information:
The Horn S1 E1: Red Sea Rising
Read our commentary Resolving the Gulf Crisis outside the Gulf
S2 Episode 12: Risks of Starvation Rise in Ethiopia's Tigray War
Armed conflict has been raging in Ethiopia's northernmost Tigray region since November and fears are growing that it is on the brink of famine. Sporadic reports trickling out of the chronically food-insecure region paint an alarming picture: hundreds of thousands displaced, essential infrastructure systematically destroyed, widespread atrocities committed and an untold number of civilian deaths.
Shrouded by a virtual information blackout, Alex de Waal says the scope of what is yet to emerge is cause for even more concern. The executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University and author of Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine, the renowned Horn of Africa scholar is back with Alan to distill what is known of how the war is unfolding. Having drawn in multiple belligerents, the situation is dire but also complex.
Alex underlines that the window of time to avert a full-blown humanitarian disaster is slipping. He discusses what witnesses have told him about the catastrophe, how political will at the highest level can be mobilized to give humanitarian agencies access to stricken regions, what Eritrea’s endgame could be, and what may come of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) now that it has been forced into an insurgency from the mountains.
For more information, see our latest briefing: Finding a Path to Peace in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
S2 Episode 11: Uganda After Its Troubling Elections
Last month’s elections in Uganda saw President Yoweri Museveni clinch another six years to his rule that began in 1986, a win marred by controversy and violence. The widespread crackdown on the opposition, civil society, and protests prior to the vote was the clearest sign yet that the incumbent regime’s days in power may be numbered.
Joining Alan Boswell to take a closer look at what happened and what’s to come in Uganda is Daniel Kalinaki, Africa editor at Nation Media Group and managing editor of The East African. He explains to Alan that a record-low voter turnout and opposition leader Bobi Wine’s popular appeal both indicate that the country’s citizens, particularly the urban youth, are growing disillusioned with the status quo.
Together they unpack the big questions this reality raises, including the complicit role of foreign interests in Uganda’s democratic backsliding, the inevitable prospect of succession, and what future political turmoil would mean for the restive region in which Uganda has long been an unusual anchor of relative stability.
For more information, read our recent Q&A: Uganda’s Museveni Clings to Power – But Trouble Lies Ahead.