by Justin Long
—(Excerpts taken from an article by Justin Long, with permission)
The Horn of Africa is home to small landholding farmers and pastoralists caring for wandering herds of cattle. It is subject to frequent droughts, and food scarcities can be a nation-shaking issue. Much of this is because of the inefficiencies in local systems due to war, grinding poverty, and a lack of infrastructure. Indeed, the Horn of Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world with the lowest life expectancies and highest incidence of child mortality.
Virtually every country in East Africa has been wounded by the many decades of conflict. Violence and anarchy reign in Somalia. Unfortunately, not only are future wars possible, they are probable, since many of the problems that are causing the conflicts have not been solved. For example, border disputes and fighting within Sudan on the eve of South Sudan’s independence could easily spill over into East Africa. Refugees can be found in nearly every nation in East Africa. Fighting and displacement have made broken economies worse.
1. Somalia Spillovers. Violence inside Somalia is not constrained by border lines on a paper map: they can easily swamp nearby nations. Still, globally it seems a small thing when a gun battle stumbles into Ethiopia and a few refugees are killed, and quite another larger problem when a merchant vessel worth millions of dollars is taken by pirates. The wildcard possibility is what happens when China gets fed up with the violence and decides to do something about it, likely with fewer scruples about diplomacy and democracy than the United States or a European power.
2. Religious Conflict. The “10th parallel” is the “band” where Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet. Populations and religious fervor in this area are growing faster than anywhere else. It is the band where “the world as we know it is breaking apart.” Ethiopia sits astride this band and has a population of 83 million, including a substantial number of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
3. Millions of Hungry, Hot People. The Horn of Africa is experiencing “the most severe food crisis in the world today” during the driest season since 1950. Poor, violence-torn Somalia is the hardest-hit, with starvation deaths and “alarming” malnutrition levels: some estimate one-third of Somalis are in need of assistance.
4. Legacies of War. The conflicts have left many people displaced, damaged and devastated. Child soldiers, raped women, destroyed homes, looted businesses, and shattered lives are all the leftovers that will have to be dealt with. Reconciliation and forgiveness will be difficult challenges, and bitterness rooted in atrocities may blossom in future conflicts.
5. Sudden Scaling Up of Connectedness. As more and more Internet bandwidth comes into the region, it becomes more and more possible for people to connect and collaborate. These connections can scale up exponentially in a very unexpected way—for good or for ill. We will be watching for increases in East African usage of social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Much of the economy is at the mercy of the climate. Droughts not only make it difficult to eat, but completely devastate the economy as well.
The cultural intersection of small landholding farmers, pastoralists and urbanites will dominate the culture. Smallholder farms are typically subsistence farmers; little economic growth is possible due to a lack of access to markets and technology. Vagaries in climate and surges in food prices can be windfalls or chaos for these farmers.
Pastoralism is a useful practice in arid environments with erratic rainfall because pastoralists are mobile and adaptable. Yet in every area a majority of the pastoralists live below the poverty line. They are being impacted by frequent droughts and sidelined from political decision-making processes. Conflicts between groups can threaten the stability of the region, and government leaders would prefer the pastoralists settled down in one place. Some have accused the governments of land-grabs and forcible evictions of pastoralists.
Coping with drought can actually change the social identity of people groups. One example is the Hadendowa people in northeastern Sudan. (see http://etd2.uofk.edu/content/html/pdf/en/en.6370.pdf).
Significant health problems will very likely continue to challenge the region through 2025.
At present a solution to the violence and anarchy in Somalia seem remote. It is an awful thing to contemplate yet another generation enduring the current situation.
The problem of Somali piracy is very complicated. Despite two billion dollars in security measures, pirate attacks are at record levels: In the first quarter of 2011 there have been nearly 100 hijackings, with average ransoms of five million dollars. Piracy has “become an industry.” Over 600 seafarers are presently hostages. Nations are searching for a workable response, although all agree it requires combined action. India is planning to introduce legislation to give its Navy and Coast Guard power against pirates in its own waters—but it would have the power to “apprehend pirates in open seas and try them in Indian courts.” Will this apply to international waters off Somalia?
Al Qaeda satellite Al Shabaab continues to be influential in the area. According to some reports the Somali militant group has been working to make itself into a “pan-East African entity”, and they have been recruiting young people from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda into their ranks. They are refusing entrance to aid groups trying to help the starving in southern Somalia (United Nations). The United States has started using drones to attack the group.
Somaliland still insists on its independence from Somalia. Few nations, however, recognize its existence.
There are significant unreached areas within the region which will likely remain very difficult to enter. Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia all have significant restrictions on Christian activity. While southern Sudan has a fair amount of mission activity going on, the north is a very difficult place to work and will probably become even more so. Somalia is a ground wet with the blood of martyrs, and the church has yet to spring from this seed.
Djibouti. Pop. 0.8 million. A small country on the tip of Ethiopia and Somalia, it is one of the least populated countries in Africa. It has strong ties to France, having voted to remain with France when Somalia became independent (although there was allegedly widespread voter fraud). Djibouti became independent in 1977. About 94 percent of the population is Muslim.
Eritrea. Pop.5.2 million. It is a small region occupied by Italy in the late 1800s and taken over by the British in 1941. A UN mandate joined it to Ethiopia in 1950. Ethiopia’s annexation of Eritrea led to a resistance movement, and it finally gained independence and international recognition in 1993. Eritrea fought a border war with Ethiopia in 1998 that killed about 100,000 people. Today Eritrea is a poor, politically oppressive country in which about half the population is Christian (mostly Orthodox or Roman Catholic) and somewhat less than half are Muslim.
Ethiopia. Pop. 82.9 million, up from 9 million in the 1800s. The GDP is approximately $1,000 per person, and it is the second most populous and tenth largest country in Africa, Ethiopia has been landlocked since its loss of Eritrea. Despite its rich agricultural and water resources, it has endured numerous famines in the 1980s. Today it has mostly recovered; with the largest economy in the region (one of the fastest growing in the world), it is a fragile powerhouse in the region. In ancient times it was home to the Kingdom of Axum, one of the first Christian kingdoms in the world and a major power during the age of Persia, Rome, and China. Ethiopia is about half Orthodox Christian, 20 percent other denominations, and a third Muslim.
Somalia. Pop. 9.3 million. On the Horn of Africa, Somalia is infamous for the total breakdown of its civil government and the rampant pirate attacks on ships passing through its waters. For the past 20 years there has been no central government. Most of Somalia’s people are governed by the tribes controlling the local areas. The fundamentalist group Al-Shabaab controls much of the south. Somalia is strongly Muslim, very antagonistic toward Christians, but suffering through severe drought and poverty.
Justin Long writes about regional trends and opportunities within various areas of the planet where the church can be a blessing. You can visit his regional reviews and trend analyses at http://www.justinlong.org. Reduced-price subscriptions are available for field workers.
by Keith Carey
Dear Praying Friends,
It may seem that we are trying to cover whatever part of the world is facing a crisis. In November we prayed for Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to survive the 2010 floods. These floods reoccurred in Sindh Province right before we went to press last September. In December we prayed for the Arabic speaking countries as they dealt with political turmoil.
But we planned to do an issue on the Horn of Africa before the current drought became a well-known problem in this part of the world, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and parts of Sudan and Kenya.
The newspapers tell us that this is the worst drought they have faced in 60 years. At the time of this writing relief agencies are having trouble getting food into Somalia because of radical Muslim militias and political chaos. Given the dangerous circumstances, it is easy to see why relief agencies are having a difficult time saving lives in the Horn of Africa.
This is a good time to pray for this longsuffering part of the world. Somalis have long since given up on having a working government, and they face almost chronic famine. Yet they stubbornly resist the Savior who can guide them in a direction that would lead them to an abundant life.
Keith Carey, managing editor, GPD