Geo-Politics in the Horn of Africa
"The Great Game", as it has been called, has been playing out in the region, layering new rivalries and ideological quarrels, onto preexisting post-colonial conflicts that have yet to be resolved. Berbera is again a point of interest. In 2018, the United Arab Emirates put down $450 million to develop Berbera’s port, as part of an effort to counter Qatari, Turkish and Russian influence in the region. A new security competition is underway in the Horn of Africa involving the Gulf states, Turkey, and Iran, as well as China, Russia and the United States. The strategic situation should be understood as an extension of two Middle Eastern power struggles. The Saudi/Iranian conflict, on the one hand, and the intra-Gulf quarrel (pitting Saudi Arabia and UAE against Qatar and Turkey), on the other, are playing out across the Red Sea, as Gulf states have come to see the Somali coastline as their “western security flank.” These two struggles - driven by security considerations and commercial interests - and aggravated by the global warming and food and water insecurity - have prompted a political realignment in Africa, and spurred a wave of investment in ports, bases and infrastructure in Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The security competition in the Horn is also unfolding against the backdrop of China’s expansion into Africa, and two ongoing democratic experiments in Ethiopia and Sudan.