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20 November 2002

Conference on the Horn of Africa Explores Possibility of Confederation

(Common interest needed to link Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and
Somalia) (480)
Washington -- The formation of a confederation of East African states
including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia -- with the
objective of achieving peace, stability, accelerated development and
democracy -- was the topic of an international conference organized by
the University of South Florida and U.S. Africa Education Foundation.
Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, representatives of the White
House Council on AIDS, the State Department, several United Nations
and regional organizations, as well as professionals from
universities, NGOs and the private sector, attended the November 14-15
event, which included an agenda of plenary sessions and workshops to
discuss the region's critical themes: political and social stability;
economic development including agricultural and water resources; and
health issues. The talks were unofficial but sought to initiate
momentum for the establishment of such a confederation.
Zachary Teich, Deputy Director for East Africa, Bureau of African
Affairs, Department of State, said the conference examined the
prospects for linking the four Horn countries "in some form of
confederation," adding "that means creating some kind of governance
arrangement in which sovereign states cede specific portions of their
individual freedom of action to a central authority for the common
interest."
In his remarks to the conference, Teich posed the question, "Does a
sufficiently strong 'common interest' exist that can unite the four
states?
"While geography has placed them in the same general area, and they
all are desperately poor, the countries of the Horn are surprisingly
diverse. They do not share a single supranational religious or ethnic
identity, although ethnic Somalis live throughout the region. In fact,
a credible argument can be made that there are more differences than
similarities between the four Horn states.
"Between them, the four countries of the Horn of Africa -- Djibouti,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia -- have known long-term independence
and colonial servitude, nascent democracy and cruel dictatorship. All
too frequently, they have also known chaos and conflict. Even now, one
of them, Somalia, is struggling to end a decade-long period of virtual
statelessness and anarchy.
"Two others, Eritrea and Ethiopia, are trying to overcome the effects
of a costly war. And Djibouti, approaching significant democratic
elections, is struggling with seemingly intractable development
challenges. If all this were not enough, the Horn now is threatened
with a drought-induced food crisis of a severity that has not been
seen in 20 years."
The conference organizers reported that the exploratory sessions
"reached several sound conclusions with specific practical
recommendations" that it is hoped will serve as a basis for future
talks and actions.
Conclusions will be published and disseminated soon on the website
http://www.usf.edu/ibl/hornofafrica/hac_home.htm."
[Editor's Note: An earlier pre-conference report, based on a reliable
source, had erroneously suggested that the central theme would be
regional responses to threats by terrorist organizations in the Horn.
Additional information from the conference indicates that this was not
the focus of the discussions, but how a confederation of the states
might prove helpful in achieving peace and development.]
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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