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An Emboldened Horn of Africa Axis and an Unfolding Humanitarian Crisis Await the Biden Administration

By Guled Ahmed


The Biden Administration is set to face a series of challenges in the Horn of Africa. Given growing Russian and Chinese involvement in this strategically important region, U.S. policymakers should be attuned to the historical background and current dynamics in the relevant countries. In the Horn of Africa, the U.S. can ameliorate the COVID-19 pandemic, stem ongoing civil strife, and ease intraregional tensions. To achieve these objectives, the U.S. will need to adopt bold strategies based on lessons from the past. This article provides essential context about the region and proposes policy measures for the incoming administration.


As Joe Biden prepares to take office on Jan. 20, 2021, the U.S. and the world are facing multiple crises. Now is one of the worst times in American history as the country struggles through a major economic recession and a pandemic that has taken more than 300,000 American lives. Biden is no stranger to economic crises, having served as vice president under the Obama administration during the Great Recession in 2009. Undoubtedly, Biden’s experience as a senator and VP makes him ready to tackle America’s domestic challenges and to reset relations with its allies.

In the Horn of Africa, his upcoming administration will grapple with longstanding challenges. However, this time, he will have to deal with the emboldened and unchecked leaders of the Horn of Africa — Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, President Mohamed Abdullahi (Farmaajo) of Somalia, and President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. Recently, the three leaders have formed an axis through the Horn of Africa Cooperation (HoAC) deal to consolidate security, stability, and economic integration.1  

The main driver of the HoAC is PM Abiy, who wants to access Somali ports for trade and promote military and economic integration in order to influence Somali politics and economy. More multilateral agreements and initiatives may come on the heels of the HoAC. In the long term, integration may become possible once the three countries stabilize and resolve their border issues.

In terms of foreign involvement in the region, the Horn of Africa could become a theater for the escalating Cold-War-like dynamic between the U.S and Russia. With its increasing power and influence, Russia could repeat strategies from Syria in the Horn of Africa and help prop up leaders of the Horn of Africa Axis who are desperate to stay in power, regardless of the results of democratic elections. Because the incoming Biden Administration will advance human rights and democratic elections, Horn of Africa leaders may turn to Russia for protection instead. Read more ……

The views expressed in the article are solely the opinion of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Wargeyska Jamhuriyadda. 

The article was originally published on Middle East Institute Website.

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