Erythros, Red ...

(To Gino Lanzara)

Unlike the generalist, which only emphasizes trends, geopolitics leaves nothing out and also analyzes what apparently is not news. We will impoliticamente goals, without satisfying the simplifications of fashion, and keeping alive the attention on a particular area and on that thin border line that can only be red, like the sea that bathes it and the origin of the name of one of the circumscribed countries, Eritrea.

The Horn of Africa remains unstable, with strong repercussions both in the continental area and in Europe. The Eritrean diaspora, held back by the Israeli security system that precluded the director from Sinai and moved the axis to Ethiopia and Sudan to Libya, directly concerns Italy.

Geostrategically the interest of the Arab countries has increased, in a political context in which Ethiopia has phlegmatized the possibility of stabilizing Somalia, seen as a regional antagonist to contain; where Egypt, affected by historical ties with the countries of the eastern area, is careful to prevent any damage resulting from the use of Nile waters; where Qatar, supported by Iran, has continued to support the anti-Ethiopian factions, opposing the other Gulf monarchies which, in an anti jihadist perspective, have instead supported Addis Ababa, without however reaching the total eradication of the phenomenon which, indeed, has it is also manifested in Kenya as a reaction to armed interventions. The Horn has thus become a carrier of the forces that compromise the ongoing balance, also given the importance of the mercantile traffic that passes through the region and ensures supplies to and from Europe, with low levels of social development cheap.

Just the control of the strategic ports has triggered dynamics then translated into concrete projections and power policies of the actors involved in the area between the western Indian coasts up to the Gulf of Aden and the bottleneck of the Bab el Mandeb Strait; China, trying to consolidate in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian and Red Seas, opening its first overseas base precisely in Djibouti, the real new strategic strategic junction, planning another one in Jiwani and acquiring the port of Gwadar, both in Pakistan - keystone in the richest point of energy traffic -, has raised Indian fears for excessive pervasiveness, and has led the US to a policy of contrast focused on agreements made with Oman covering the area between the deep water port of Duqm and that of Salalah in order to weaken the strategic Chinese adjacency between Oman, Pakistan and Djibouti, an experiment involving India and the UK; the Gulf States have attempted to increase their strategic stability by safeguarding internal import-export routes, reducing dependence on the Strait of Hormuz, and increasing the efficiency of logistic infrastructures; for Israel, the competition between competitors contributes to institutionalize the presence of stable and certain actors along the Southern routes between Eilat, Aqaba and Suez, and to create new opportunities aimed at the export of know-how even if for the moment of low profile, with a possible presence of intelligence in the Yemeni arena aimed at banning the Iranian presence.

The game being played in the region between Saudi Arabia, UAE - which exploit the political weight of their presence in the Eritrean port of Assab - and Egypt on the one hand, and on the other hand Qatar and Turkey, present with a base in Mogadishu and aimed at strengthening its presence in Djibouti and Suakin in Sudan, can only increase the state of tension in the area.

In the meantime Eritrea has established bilateral relations with the Saudi Kingdom, shortly after the formation of a regional group of countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and Jordan); Beyond the usual statements regarding navigation safety and the prevention of terrorist activities, the strategic tensions arising from the regional proactivity of Iran, Turkey and Qatar should not be underestimated. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fascinated by the BIS, attribute capital importance to the Horn of Africa, seen as a western side of security, and that they intend to ensure freedom of access to the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in front of Djibouti and linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, without forgetting the continuing Yemeni conflict and the Iranian longa manus.

From a geopolitical point of view, therefore, it does not seem wise to treat the Horn of Africa as an entity distinct from the Arabian peninsula, also taking into account the ongoing challenges both among established actors (China and the USA), and in evident ascent (Russia and India), which are producing port and logistics projects and infrastructures in Berbera (Somaliland), in Doraleh (Djibouti), in Bosaso (Puntland), in Assab (Eritrea), all aspects that can be considered in the context of Middle Eastern rivalries and which touch on doctrinal aspects shipbuilding; it does not even seem appropriate to underestimate the regional dynamism that does not recommend treating the area as a homogeneous block, and which always recalls ethnic and tribal conflict, the precariousness of institutional structures, the strategic function borrowed from the Cold War.

God will never receive the Nobel Peace Prize

Our thin red line after circumscribing East Africa now leads to delimit the Eritrean-Somali-Ethiopian theater, one of the best examples of continental Balkanization.

Without a broad-spectrum vision, we know little about this area; with analytical objectivity, one cannot but underline a fundamental lack of preparation that has led to remaining concentrated on an increasingly narrow courtyard, and according to a political line that does not consider the British longitudinal projections of power, the French latitudinal ones, neglects the disputes related to the border definition in areas that however concern our interests (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti), highlighting a decline in the so-called. Italian method.

The Horn of Africa has lived a long period characterized by bloody conflicts and a form of African neo-colonialism that led Ethiopia, to the spasmodic search for access to the sea, to annex Eritrea, triggering a thirty-year war ended in the 1991 and again ignited between the '98 and the 2000. Eritrea, geopolitically little known and currently outside the Niamey free trade agreement, is characterized by one of the most rigid dictatorial regimes on the continent; from the 1993 the Eritrean democratic path is affected by the failure to implement both the Constitution and a multi-party political system, with a regime represented by Isaias Afewerki, in fact Perpetual President, which holds full control over the powers of the State, and is surrounded by a structure of loyalists who manage the administrative life in competition with the deficient public apparatus. The rough menage Eritrean diplomat, fomenting misunderstanding and conflict, authorized Afewerki to maintain an absolutist apparatus as the only guarantee of national security, but not able to settle international relations.

Afewerki's policy (in the photo, left), trained in guerrilla warfare in China but not in economic planning, alienates foreign investors, impoverishes the country which, while favoring military spending, survives thanks to international aid, good of limited freedom of the press, and through a social crisis exacerbated by the extension of compulsory military service, used as a reservoir of conscripts to be used for public works, and imprudently deemed functional for containing unemployment, but actually generating a diaspora uncontrollable and in any case not so opposed, given the economic returns of the not always spontaneous remittances from abroad.

Although isolated, Eritrea does not renounce a protagonism without concrete foundations, and wears secularist cloths that undermine delicate religious aspects, both Christian and Muslim, as well as relations with neighboring countries with unequivocal and provocative funding from insurgent groups. Abiy Ahmed (in the photo, right), Ethiopian Prime Minister, awarded for this the Nobel Peace Prize 2019, introduced an element of novelty in the general picture, favoring a unexpected peace agreement, following the Algiers Pact in the 2000 which led to a period of no peace no war, to which the interested pressures of international actors also contributed, aimed at bringing regional stability by facilitating an indispensable economic recovery.

But how can we trust Asmara, who founded his regime and its repressive policies on a perennial conflict that would now disappear? Ethiopian politics has long been based on the security aspect; however with the recognition of the Agreements of Algiers Ahmed, of ethnicity Oromo, could now either try to contain the internal thrusts of the ethnic groups tigrina ed Ahmara, central to the life of the country, thus opening up a new political season founded on a more equitable distribution of power, both from the international point of view, could facilitate regional stability under the aegis of a new and indispensable maritime policy aimed at reopening the ports Eritreans to Ethiopian goods.

While for Eritrea, a potential guardian of Egyptian maritime traffic, peace could heal the vulnus opened by the violation of human rights at home and by the support offered to al Shabaab in an anti-Ethiopian version, provided that it intends to radically and concretely change its current policy, for Ethiopia the marching towards the coasts would lead to a revision of the military commitment in Somalia, not only aimed at jihadist repression but also to reaffirm an influence so far aimed at securing coasts and ports, without which economic growth would be destined to weaken without Gibraltan port support, and which it could revive with the exploitation of the Ogaden oil fields, already bulleted from China, and with the revived Russian interest, supported by President Al Sisi, during the last economic summit held in October in Sochi, a clear intent to regain a central role in African affairs.

There are two paradoxical points for reflection, first: despite the totalitarian nature of the Eritrean regime, the figure of Afewerki (in the photo, on the left), if well managed, could even emerge stronger in the light of international political evaluations still based on superficial analysis of the facts ; second: perhaps the time has come to question the substantiality of the academic awards: Abiy Ahmed has the Nobel in one hand, in the other a potential internal political and social crisis with latent ethnic conflicts, reinforced by the rivalry with Jawar Mohammed, which is causing a decline of consensus among his own Oromo, and in the shadow of secessionist impulses and religious fury against the Orthodox Church.


One year on from the signing, the 2018 peace agreement is likely to remain unfinished with a normalization of relations that is not very concrete, given the lack of developments on the 5 points of the declaration.

In fact, the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, rather than improbable transcendent illuminations, was induced by objective political conditions internal to the two countries and by the regional political evolution, which they realistically have advised to come to more mild intentions, but now should follow pragmatic actions, not least an actual reconciliation between Asmara and Mogadishu, the other great regional actor tormented by Somaliland separatism and by the fundamentalist challenge of al Shabaab; lo status quo, would therefore demonstrate a persistent regional instability without security developments. And now it touches briefly on Italy and its possible role which, although facilitated by multiple factors, has not been covered, giving way to admitting the non-existence of a national geopolitics in Africa, a reality witnessed by the numerical lack of diplomatic representations.

In a historical moment in which politics confusedly speaks too many languages, from English to Chinese to Russian, it would be opportune to remember that the remaining Italian influence is mainly due to the widespread diplomacy of ENI, but with a scarce awareness of direct national interest.

Photo: NASA / US Air National Guard