• ICPAC says Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are the most affected nations in the Greater Horn and East African region.
• There is need for a common front in mitigating the security-related impacts of extreme weather events through robust approaches to conflict resolution.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC) has just issued a stark advisory to countries in the Horn of Africa warning of a sixth consecutive failed rainy season and consequently, the longest and most severe drought to hit the region in four decades. But the looming humanitarian catastrophe overshadows a deeper crisis with far-reaching consequences for the security and stability of the region, Kenya included.
The destabilising effect of climate change on the security of nations at national and regional level is now a major international issue. Extreme weather events such as floods, drought and storms are now recognised as drivers of conflict and violence due to their disruptive nature with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) citing depletion of food, water and energy resources due to the changing climate patterns as a major security threat to many countries.
Therefore, the frequent and more intense droughts ravaging the Horn of Africa, and indeed other parts of the world, should be viewed in this context. The climate crisis is not only impacting food systems and hence the ability of States to feed their citizens but also the overall security and instability of countries in the region.
ICPAC says Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are the most affected nations in the Greater Horn and East African region, with the onset of the sixth failed consecutive rain season. FAO estimates that 23 million people are food insecure in the three countries while over 8.5 million people, including 4.2 million children, are facing dire water shortages.
In addition, death of livestock and crop failure are forcing people to migrate to other areas thus increasing fierce competition for scarce natural resources like water and worsen the already precarious security situation in places like Ethiopia’s Tigray region where over two million people have already been displaced by the war in Tigray and millions more are in need of humanitarian aid. Thousands are feeling to neighboring countries to escape hunger and conflict.
In Somalia, where internecine conflict has been raging for decades, seven million people are starving yet armed groups are reportedly making it harder for food aid to reach beneficiaries and are in fact said to be capitalising on the situation to entrench their grip on regions they control, with some like the al-Shabaab terrorist militia posing as humanitarian providers as a strategy to endear themselves to the populace.
In Kenya, already grappling with run-away banditry and lawlessness in the northern parts of the country, 5.4 million people face acute food insecurity due to the ongoing drought, leaving many communities in extreme need of humanitarian assistance. It is estimated that over 2.5 million livestock, the economic mainstay of pastoralist communities, have died.
If urgent measures beyond appeals by States in the region for humanitarian support are not taken, the drought will have long-term ramifications for regional security and stability. Of essence is the urgent need for the Horn States to prioritise security strategies as part of their overall response to the global warming environment crisis.
As a national and regional security threat, drought and other unpredictable weather events cannot be ignored and call for concerted action by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states and international partners in strengthening community resilience in light of emerging climate-related security challenges over and above interventions aimed at alleviating human suffering due to food insecurity.
Importantly, there is need for a common front in mitigating the security-related impacts of extreme weather events through robust approaches to conflict resolution, counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism. Investing in irrigation and water systems especially in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands is critical in enhancing security by minimising hostilities triggered by constrained access to this valuable natural resource. We need a security-driven Marshall Plan for the Horn of Africa.