United Nations officials were in Kampala recently to re-engage the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), which is emerging as the most decisive regional body in dealing with conflict in East Africa.
The UN officials said that with the Red Sea becoming more militarised, they fear the conflict in the Gulf has migrated to East Africa.
The officials said they are now looking to Igad as an institution that can control the damage.
As it is, the international community cannot afford further conflict in East Africa.
Henry Oryem, Uganda’s Minister for Regional Affairs, said the international community spends up to $70 billion in annual humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping interventions in the region.
Igad executive secretary Mahmoub Maalim added that 40 percent of the World Food Programme budget is spent in eastern Africa.
“And that excludes the school feeding programmes that are a common feature in this region,” he said.
Mr. Maalim added that the kind of poverty that requires WFP feeding for children to attend school turns the region into a breeding ground for robbers and potential terrorists.
East Africa as a breeding grounding for terrorists is high on the list of things the international community is worried about. There are fears the effects of the war in Yemen are spilling into countries like Somalia.
Also high on the agenda of the UN department for political affairs is ensuring the Gulf conflict between Saudi Arabia, backed by the United Arab Emirates on one side and Qatar on the other, does not extend to the region.
Alexander Randos, the European Union’s special representative to the Horn of Africa said players like the East African Community and Igad have to find a way to overcome challenges associated with Saudi Arabia’s influence in places like Somalia.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of training armed forces in different Somali states.
According to the Assistant Secretary General in charge of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs Brook Zerihoun Taye, the UN is crafting a strategy to help Igad address conflicts in its region.
The steps to be undertaken include upgrading the office of the special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan to cover the entire Igad region, which will also have a UN political office.
A UN political offices already exist in Central, West and Southern Africa.
He said that Igad would use this office in efforts similar to those of mending relationships between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, as well as those between Uganda and Sudan.
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