UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
The Horn of Africa is a region of 4,387,385 square klms, inhabited by about 75 million people. It is a region 18 times the size of the United Kingdom with immense natural resources. It covers Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan. Other Nile Valley countries such as Kenya and Uganda are inseparably linked to the Horn in many aspects.
The strategic position of the region becomes much more important because of its proximity to the rich Gulf region which contains half of the world's oil as well as the Holly shrines of the Islamic world (Mecca and Medina). The Horn commands the straits between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. With its ancient Judaeo-Christian and Islamic legacies, the region has for centuries provided a unique bridge between sub-Saharan Africa and the old traditions of the Middle East and Europe.
The cold war era was characterized by the denial of civil and political rights to the people of the Horn and undermining their fundamental rights to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The impact of the policies and practices of the dictatorial regimes which dominated the Horn was devastating. In Sudan, the dictatorial regime that usurped power from a democratically elected government on June 1980 escalated the civil war and impoverished the country. In Somalia the dictatorial policies led to the dismembering of the country, the collapse of law and order and a bloody confrontation between the different clans. In Ethiopia the dictatorial resistance to any attempt for a peaceful change resulted in untold suffering of its people and those of Eritrea.
The end of the cold war led to the prominence of the questions of human rights in the Horn, as well as a growing awareness amongst the people of their basic rights particularly those pertaining to choosing their governments and making them accountable to the people. But the end of the cold war was also marked in the region by the rise of religious extremists and fundamentalists who claim devine right to rule and thwart all political rights.
The menacing phenomenon of religious extremism started in the region with the military coup in Sudan in 1980 and has started to spillover to other countries in the region, particularly Somalia and Eritrea. What is disturbing about the fundamentalists is their deceit and hypocrisy towards the question of democracy and human rights. They conspire against democracy when they fail to assume power through peaceful and democratic means and call for democracy whenever they cannot assume power by force.
The Horn is now the poorest region in the world, its problems aggravated by a background of military dictatorships, lack of development, heavy foreign debts and civil wars. The region has become the source of the largest number of refugees in the continent. The countries of the horn of Africa are related geographically, historically and demographically. For the past two decades, these countries have all suffered from tragic events of civil wars, influxes of refugees, displacement of population, drought, famine and disease. Essentially, the cause of these problems are more or less the same. Hence, we believe that the solutions are u!inter-linked, if not identical. A lot can be done to improve the quality of life for the population of the region and its tarnished image.
To that end the citizens from the Horn of Africa and interested individuals not from the region have decided to create a forum to be named The Horn of Africa Forum (HAF) in order to contribute to the attainment of peace, development and promotion of democracy and respect for human rights in the region.
Working with others
to achieve our aims, we would like to co-operate with governments, multilateral organisations, especially the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are interested in the stability, peace, prosperity and democratic developments in the Horn of Africa.
The objectives of the HAF are the following:
1. To work for the attainment of peace, promotion of democracy and respect of human rights in the region. 2. To strive for the sustainment of the region's abilities for development and the elimination of poverty and underdevelopment. 3. To strive for the free access of relief to the war and famine affected areas. 4. To combat environmental degradation, drought and desertification and enhance the elimination of land mines in previous war zones. 5. To uphold the rights of women, their welfare and their integration in development and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
1. To educate, inform and generate public awareness about the realities of the region. 2. To carry out field research. 3. To organise seminars, workshops, conferences and symposiums. 4. To provide a forum for negotiations and conflict resolutions. 5. To publish periodicals and dialogue papers. 6. To provide speakers on the Horn of Africa where required. 7. To use the mass media to reach a wider audience.
Horn of Africa (HAF), 7 Bury Place, London WC1A 2LA, UK, Tel: (071) 404 1074, Fax: (071) 404 1075
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! Origin: The African News (700:200/0)
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