The Horn of Africa is in turmoil. From revolution in Sudan to civil war in Ethiopia, from Somalia’s political stalemate and the regional spread of jihadism to troubled East African democracies, the region’s pace and scale of change are difficult to keep up with. The Horn, a podcast series from the International Crisis Group, helps make sense of it all. Host Alan Boswell and guests dive deep behind the headlines as they analyse events, debate diplomacy and discuss avenues toward peace. Hosted by Alan Boswell and produced by Maeve Frances
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Special Episode: Putting the Horn of Africa Back Together
36:55The project of forging a more united Horn of Africa has been a clear victim of the myriad crises rippling through East Africa. Regional security infrastructure has collapsed and attempts at multilateral conflict resolution have floundered. For its part, the body responsible for ensuring regional security, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has become dysfunctional and seems incapable of fulfilling its peace and security mandate.This week we are bringing you a special episode of The Horn produced in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES). Alan is joined by expert guests, Charles Onyango-Obbo, veteran Ugandan journalist, Betty Kaari Murungi, a Kenyan lawyer with wide regional experience, and Harry Verhoeven, an author and scholar at Columbia University, for a panel discussion on IGAD and the collapse of multilateral cooperation in the Horn. They talk about IGAD’s roots as an organisation tackling desertification and drought, the role of key players within this regional forum, continuing wariness toward outside actors and the recent political dynamics that have contributed to inaction and lethargy. They ask whether there is any way of reversing the region's political fragmentation and building a lasting order that can stem the flow of deadly conflict. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
S3 Episode 5: Tigrayan Forces Retreat in Ethiopia
34:26Recent weeks have seen yet another major turn of events in Ethiopia’s civil war. Only a month ago, the momentum was firmly on the Tigray side after an advance toward the capital. In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed exhorted citizens to enlist and vowed to lead a counteroffensive from the frontlines. Foreign governments also swooped in with support, especially drones, which altered the conflict’s dynamics. Federal and allied regional forces have thus pushed back the Tigray forces, turning momentum once again and staving off any assault on Addis Ababa. Still, there are few reasons to expect a swift resolution: the Tigrayans have since had their own resurgence and there is little political appetite for dialogue.This week, Alan talks to William Davison, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, to make sense of where the current political and military dynamics now stand, following the dizzying twists and turns in the war. They take stock of the current balance of military power between the different sides, discuss the counteroffensive’s success, the impact of government drone strikes and Abiy’s relationship with foreign actors ranging from the Gulf states to China and the U.S. They also talk about the prospects for an elusive resolution to the conflict and what could prevent the civil war from grinding on for many more months and possibly years.For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ethiopia page. Make sure to take a look at Crisis Group’s recent statement ‘Time to End Ethiopia’s Unwinnable War’. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
S3 Episode 4: The Search for an African Union Exit Strategy from Somalia
31:21The African Union’s mission (AMISOM) has operated in Somalia for close to fifteen years. Initial military successes have led to a stalemate on the battlefield, as the military coalition of regional African troops has struggled to permanently degrade jihadist insurgent group Al-Shabaab. Frustration is mounting, both in Somalia and abroad. The Somali government, led by Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, has consistently called for an accelerated transition. International actors, saddled with the bulk of costs, are growing ever more wary of funding the mission without a clearer exit plan. Still, there are no easy options. Immediate withdrawal would almost certainly see Al-Shabaab make significant gains.This week, Alan is joined by Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Somalia Omar Mahmood to discuss the beleaguered mission and the pressing need for reform. They talk through AMISOM’s mixed record, the possible consequences of a sudden withdrawal, the central and complicated roles played by Ethiopia and Kenya, Somali attitudes toward the mission and the bitter international disputes surrounding AMISOM’S funding. They also talk about the wider challenges facing Somalia and the missing political pieces preventing a smoother pullout by the African Union troops.For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Somalia page. Make sure to check out Crisis Group's recent briefing ‘Reforming the AU Mission in Somalia’. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
S3 Episode 3: Ethiopia’s Historic Turning Point
48:30Even the most seasoned observers have been stunned by Ethiopia’s recent twists and turns. The first shock came in 2018, when the country saw a peaceful transfer of power to a coalition led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. For some, this promised a turning point for a country that had long struggled to open its political space and find a workable political model that balanced its strong state with regional demands for ethnic autonomy. This optimism did not last. Ethiopia has since been plunged into a deadly civil war that threatens the very integrity of the state. Only weeks ago, Tigray forces captured towns in the direction of Addis Ababa, leading some foreigners to evacuate the capital.This week, Alan is joined by Ethiopia expert Christopher Clapham, an author on the Horn of Africa and retired professor at the University of Cambridge, to take a deep dive into the country’s complex history. They discuss the legacy of Ethiopia’s imperial past, Ethiopia’s exceptional resistance to European colonial rule, the lingering effects of the Derg’s violent revolution, and the contradictions inside former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s vision for ethnic federalism. They also talk about the breakdown of the Ethiopian regime after Meles’s death, the “miracle” of Abiy’s ascent, the slide into civil war and the possible scenarios for Ethiopia’s political future as the military tide turns against the government.You can find more of Crisis Group’s work on our Ethiopia page. Make sure to check out Professor Clapham’s latest book The Horn of Africa: State Formation and State Decay for more fascinating insights. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Bonus Episode: Will Tigrayan Rebels Attack Ethiopia’s Capital?
37:17Today we're bringing you a bonus episode on Somalia from Crisis Group's global podcast Hold Your Fire!. This week, as Ethiopia’s civil war enters its second year, Tigrayan rebels captured the strategically placed cities of Dessie and Kombolcha, only hours away from the country’s capital Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed imposed a state of emergency and exhorted citizens to take up arms to defend the capital. With Tigrayan forces at striking distance, is an all-out assault on the capital imminent?This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Senior Ethiopia Analyst William Davison to discuss what might happen next. They discuss the factors explaining Tigrayan forces’ offensive, the strain on Ethiopia’s federal forces and the impact of Tigrayan gains on Prime Minister Abiy’s position and his ruling party. They look at the war’s international dimensions: Eritrea’s continued involvement, how Djibouti might respond were Tigrayan forces able to reach the Djiboutian border and seek to open supply lines, and the risk Sudan gets sucked in. They discuss what an assault on the capital by Tigrayan forces might entail and how that can be averted. For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ethiopia page and read our latest briefing Ethiopia’s Civil War: Cutting a Deal to Stop the Bloodshed. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
S3 Episode 2: Sudan After the Coup
34:20Sudan’s political order is crumbling. On 25 October, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and other senior officers ousted the country’s civilian government. A week on, it is unclear whether Sudan’s fragile transition can be salvaged. While vast demonstrations condemning the power grab pose a serious challenge to the generals, a coalition of military leaders and armed groups have closed ranks in support of the coup. Meanwhile, few Sudanese desire a return to a troubled status quo that struggled to deliver promised reforms. This week Alan is joined by Magdi el-Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, to make sense of the labyrinthine world of Sudanese politics and ask what happens next. They talk about the resistance facing the military and other armed factions, the defiant new form of popular politics emerging on the streets, the rural-urban divide threatening the country’s political stability and the deep economic interests obstructing reform. They ask what a possible deal to end the political impasse could look like, question whether such a deal would be accepted on Khartoum’s streets and discuss the major risks facing the country if attempts at resolution fail. For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on the Sudan page and read our statement ‘Reversing Sudan’s Dangerous Coup’. Make sure to take a look at stillsudan.blogspot.com for more of Magdi’s writings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
S3 Episode 1: The Battered State of Activism in Africa
26:25Civil activists in Africa face increasingly strong headwinds. States continue to use tried-and-tested repression alongside increasingly sophisticated forms of legal and financial pressure to limit the influence of the continent’s activists. Despite these obstacles, Africa is brimming with energy, as showcased during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet this political activism does not always follow the path of the formal civil society organisations that Western support has flowed to since the 1990s. This week, Alan is joined by L. Muthoni Wanyeki, the Open Society Foundation’s Africa Director, to talk about this mixed picture. They discuss the successes of popular movements in Sudan, the tragic fate of South Sudan, the conspicuous lack of an anti-war movement in Ethiopia and the challenges posed by mounting authoritarianism in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Alan asks whether the model for civil society organising needs to change and Muthoni argues that we can empower activists by reforming African philanthropy and building a better framework for dialoguing with state actors. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Bonus Episode: Avoiding Another Afghanistan: Could Al-Shabaab Seize Power in Somalia? (from the Crisis Group podcast Hold Your Fire!)
44:03Today we're bringing you a bonus episode on Somalia from Crisis Group's global podcast Hold Your Fire!. Many people in the Somali capital Mogadishu watched with apprehension as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. Could Somalia, struggling against its own Islamist insurgency – Al-Shabaab – face a similar fate? In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Somalia, to discuss the resurgence of Al-Shabaab as political instability wracks the country and the withdrawal of African Union troops potentially looms. They discuss the state of the insurgency, the capability of Somali defence forces, the troubled relationship between the central government and Somalia’s regions, and the role of East African and other foreign powers. They also talk about whether there is any hope of a political settlement with Al-Shabaab. For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Somalia and Horn of Africa pages. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Eastern Africa’s Jihadis: The “War on Terror”
47:29As the twenty-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, this last instalment of The Horn’s mini-series about jihadism along the Swahili coast explores two decades of the “war on terror” and how they affected the Horn of Africa. Alan Boswell welcomes a panel including Crisis Group’s Murithi Mutiga, project director for the Horn of Africa, the BBC’s Mary Harper and Boston University Professor Michael Woldemariam to discuss how East Africa’s politics changed as Western policy toward the region shifted to its overriding focus on security concerns and counter-terrorism above all elseThey discuss the U.S. efforts to counter jihadism in East Africa prior to 9/11, and how the subsequent “war on terror” shifted politics across the region, from the pressure put on the regime in Khartoum, to regime change in Somalia, to America’s securitised partnerships with Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Kampala, and the isolation of Eritrea. They also discuss Somalia’s fate, shifting U.S. priorities, and how the events in Ethiopia may affect regional counter-terrorism efforts moving forward. They also look at the recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and how this chain of events has emboldened jihadist groups in East Africa, particularly Al-Shabaab in Somalia.The Eastern Africa’s Jihadis series of The Horn is produced in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.This episode also features in Crisis Group’s Special Coverage of the legacy of the 9/11 attacks and how the subsequent “war on terror” shaped global conflicts and crises. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Eastern Africa’s Jihadis: The Big Picture
40:46As jihadist ideologies have spread across Eastern Africa, governments are struggling to counter their growth, while the militant movements themselves are divided between the competing franchises of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Meanwhile, the dominant jihadist group in the region, Al-Shabaab, is emboldened by the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan. What does the future hold?In this episode of The Horn’s mini-series, Alan Boswell and Rashid Abdi, former project director for the Horn of Africa at Crisis Group, connect the dots between the jihadist groups that have sprung up across the region. They discuss what the implications for other armed rebellions might be in the wake of the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and what the endgame is for groups like Al-Shabaab seeking similar power. They also discuss whether al-Qaeda or the Islamic State have regional momentum in their competition against each other, and the challenges governments face in finding the right time to dialogue with the groups. Finally, Rashid argues why regional cooperation can only go so far in countering the jihadist threat.The Eastern Africa’s Jihadis series of The Horn is produced in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.