-- The countries in the Horn of Africa (HoA) urgently need to find fresh conflict resolution approaches to ensure stability and peaceful socio-economic development.
-- China stands ready to propose the "Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa" to support regional countries in addressing security, development and governance challenges.
-- China has been part of efforts to support regional countries in addressing security, development and governance challenges.
ADDIS ABABA, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Amid a series of old and emerging security perils, the countries in the Horn of Africa (HoA) urgently need to find fresh conflict resolution approaches to ensure stability and peaceful socio-economic development.
China stands ready to propose the "Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa" to support regional countries in addressing security, development and governance challenges, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said when visiting Kenya in early January.
Chinese and Ethiopian staff members monitor the loading of containers to be transported by the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway in Ethiopia, on Sept. 2, 2020. (Photo by Tang Yongcheng/Xinhua)
The proposal came after Wang visited Ethiopia in early December last year and Eritrea in early January, before his trip to Kenya. The three are countries in HoA region.
The proposal has received positive responses from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and other countries in the region, which believe that it meets the urgent needs of countries in the HoA, and that China's appointment of a special envoy of the Chinese Foreign Ministry for the HoA affairs indicates that the Chinese side will play a more active and constructive role there.
STABILITY PREREQUISITE FOR DEVELOPMENT
There are two main considerations in China's proposal, said Wu Peng, head of the Department of African Affairs of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The first is to respect and support the countries in the HoA to give full play to their own initiative, eliminate interference from powers outside the region, and let the HoA countries solve the current peace and security issues on their own, Wu said.
Noting that peace and stability are the prerequisite for economic and social development, he said that there can be no lasting and solid peace without development, which is also based on China's historical experience.
Therefore, the second is that China is willing to strengthen practical cooperation with countries in the HoA to promote regional economic development and lay a solid foundation for regional peace and stability, Wu added.
In their interviews with Xinhua, African experts said that security concerns and unstability pose a serious threat to the continent's development.
Eyob Belachew, an Ethiopia-based international relations and political analyst, said the region is one of "the most volatile regions in the world" at present.
"The Horn of Africa has been afflicted by inter-state and intra-states conflicts and proxy wars mostly due to geo-politics, geo-strategically and also geo-economic factors," Belachew told Xinhua recently.
"The region has witnessed other forms of conflict such as terrorism, piracy and proliferation of small and light weapons. As if these are not enough, the Horn has also been a theater of cross-border conflicts with regional ramifications," Cavince Adhere, a Kenya-based international relations scholar, told Xinhua recently.
Recurrent natural disasters such as droughts, consistent flooding and desert locust invasions, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have further complicated the region's path to peace, development and good governance.
China has been part of efforts to support regional countries in addressing security, development and governance challenges.
Wang, during his latest visit to Kenya, said the HoA, albeit with a unique strategic location and great development potential, has in recent years experienced flare-ups of hot issues and eruptions of conflicts and confrontations, which run counter to the interests of the people in the region and have to be stopped.
China is willing to propose the outlook to support the region in realizing long-term stability, peace and prosperity, Wang said, adding the core of the outlook is to support countries in the region to stay out of any geopolitical competition between major countries while keeping their fate in their own hands.
Freight trains are seen at Nairobi station of Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Nov. 17, 2021. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)
The senior Chinese official outlined three major priorities, noting that the Horn of Africa should strengthen intra-regional dialogue to overcome security challenges; should accelerate regional revitalization to overcome development challenges; and should explore effective ways to overcome governance challenges.
Belachew, noting that the regional security concerns are multifaceted amid a number of competing and important players, said possible solutions must be systematic and efficient to establish longer term regional stability.
"China's initiative can play a significant role in the peace-building process and development in the Horn of Africa. By providing the platform and also the experience since China itself implemented in its peaceful rise to modernize its nation, I believe that the Horn countries can learn a lot from the Chinese experience," the analyst said.
Experts widely commended the appointment of a Chinese Special Envoy as an important step to help realize the vision of peaceful development in the region.
"Beijing's foreign policy of non-belligerence is an asset and should serve as a galvanizing voice in search for sustainable peace and security in the region," said Adhere.
CHINA'S CONSTRUCTIVE ROLE
According to a recent report by the Africa Policy Institute, a pan-African think tank, since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was proposed in 2013, China has supported modern infrastructure projects such as railways, roads, ports, dams, industries, and digital connectivity, injecting vitality into Kenya's growth.
"In less than a decade, Kenya has a brand new 670-kilometer modern Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) connecting the port of Mombasa and the inland (dry) port of Naivasha," said the report titled "Shared Prosperity: Tracking the Belt and Road Initiative in Kenya, 2018-2021."
The report indicated that as a result of the BRI, Kenya has many new industries which employ thousands of people and boost the economy.
There are on average six passenger trains and 17 freight trains operating along the Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi SGR on a daily basis, which have reduced travel times while guaranteeing the safety of commuters and bulk cargo.
Chinese and Kenyan drivers prepare to launch the train at Nairobi station of Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Nov. 17, 2021. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)
George Agutu, a middle-aged civil servant who works in Mombasa said the modern train service has guaranteed him seamless travel to Nairobi every weekend for a reunion with his family.
"I now conveniently take the SGR night train to Nairobi on Friday night to be with my family and back to work on Sunday," Agutu said.
Eliud Muraya, a Nairobi-based entrepreneur, said the SGR freight service can deliver his imported merchandise in less than a week at affordable prices and with enhanced safety while it used to take 30 days by ferry cargo from the port of Mombasa to his premises with clearance hurdles.
Erastus Mwencha, former deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission, noted the SGR has eased congestion at the port of Mombasa to the benefit of local and foreign investors. He said a large number of trucks have been removed from Kenyan highways, which also brings ecological benefits to the country.
The Chinese-built 752.7-km-long Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway, which connects landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti port, recorded about 86.13 million U.S. dollars in revenue in 2021, up 37.5 percent compared to 2020. The line has been used by 449 passenger trains and 1,469 freight trains over the year.
The railway has also improved the efficiency of operation, with the time to process a freight train at the Port of Doraleh in Djibouti reduced from three days to one-and-a-half days, while the loading and unloading time at the dry port of Modjo has been reduced from 12 to seven hours.
Besides, China has been helping deal with natural disasters in the region and has enabled locals to quickly and effectively respond disasters.
When Ethiopia suffered from the worst desert locust invasion in about 25 years for much of 2019 and 2020, the Chinese government had donated batches of what the Ethiopian government described as "timely and much-needed" anti-locust materials.
China also donated relief food consisting of 945 tons of rice to Kenyans when Kenya declared a drought-induced national disaster in September last year after 23 arid and semi-arid counties were affected by drought, leaving about 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian support.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, China has made numerous donations of anti-pandemic medical supplies and vaccines.
China-donated Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Feb. 10, 2021. (Photo by Li Boyuan/Xinhua)
The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), which started implementing various life-changing programs in Ethiopia in 2015 targeting vulnerable people including refugee children, also showed China's growing engagement in fighting poverty within the region.
By the end of 2020, the CFPA had benefited some 130,000 people in Ethiopia, with the number of beneficiaries still growing. (Video reporters: Liu Chang, Yang Yi; video editors: Zhao Yuchao, Zhu Jianhui, Zhou Saang)■