Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Claim to the Port of Zeila a Flip of the Tongue or Character Assassination?

By Adan Makina

Being a powerful orator or espousing linguistic eloquence is a great advantage in leadership. Powerful words influence people of all kinds. Leaders have to be careful when they want to influence people. Leaders like Gandhi, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, J.F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have inspired millions with their use of driving words. Gandhi used beautiful language coupled with nonviolence to usher India into independence; Dr. King’s historical “I have a dream” message became a driving force in America’s fight against racial discrimination; J.F Kennedy inspired Americans to land on the moon and that mission has been accomplished; Nelson Mandela’s words and deeds has seen black South Africans reclaim their long-lost freedom; and Barack Obama’s oratory skills has been debated across all corners of the world. The language used by philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle continue to inspire us to this day. As leaders we will need to arm ourselves with powerful language so that the legacy, we leave behind will be admired for many years by many generations of people across the globe.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia

You may have heard the phrase “watch your words”. A leader ought to be an exceptional person who possesses outstanding language ability others lack. Being mindful of what you say and how you say should be engraved in our minds. They say “walls have ears”. Once you plunge into linguistic speech error there is no turning back. It is common for people to claim that they have been misquoted after they have erred. Others blame what is termed as “flip of the tongue”. In contemporary times, the rise of Information Technology (IT), globalization and human interconnectedness has opened previous communication barriers.

It is said that the tongue is the sweetest part of the body and also the worst part. Perhaps we could ask those who eat animal tongues how sweet it is, even though, it is simply a metaphor. Flip of the tongue could inflict the leader with “character assassination” and as Somalis say “maradaa kaa dhacday” for ‘you appear nude or naked’ or ‘your waist garment has fallen off’ which is in reference to making unbefitting and ludicrous statements that baffle the listeners. Unlike foot-dragging that is related to laziness, the terminology hand-dragging, in the Somali language, it is written “i jiid aan ku jiide waa gacmo daalis” that translates to ‘the end result of hand-dragging is boredom’. Though it has nothing to do with hand-dragging, the proverb propounds the insignificance of endless argumentations that lack final reconciliation or compromise.

The most harrowing political miscalculation that out sprang from the mouth of an African leader in modern times, is that of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s claim to the Port of Zeila in Somalia. He shamelessly stood up before his parliament to seek every possible means to getting a seaport for his landlocked nation that had been in existence for thousands of years with undeterred access to the past ancient world powers like Egypt and Greece and the Yemenis of aforetime. However, even though it is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea that is thought to have been written by a Greek mariner a millennia ago, Ethiopia had seaports until 1993.

Ethiopia’s search for a port in Somaliland has a surreptitious and hideous political agenda that requires strenuous philosophical contemplation. Even though my political sentiments and linguistic logocracy may not be appealing to the supporters of the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed who has become a pain in the neck to the people of the Horn of Africa, especially Somalis and Somalia, as a political analyst and observer of global political events, a cursory glance at Ethiopia’s gerrymandering deserves thorough analysis if the truth is to be told plainly without any strings attached.

The January 1, 2024, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the unrecognized breakaway stateless Somaliland and Ethiopia over the leasing of the historical Port of Zeila to Ethiopia by Somaliland’s ex colonel Muse Bihi, outrageously appears lugubrious since it lacks acceptable philosophical foundations. Followed by a global outcry, the result of the MoU caused insurmountable diplomatic disequilibrium to Ethiopia and Somaliland. From Zeila to Addi Ababa, the harrowing 819 miles drive by road could take 13 hours and 6 minutes.

A landlocked country, Ethiopia, a nation with over a hundred million population, lost the ports of Assab and Massawa to Eritrea after 30 years of struggle that finally allowed Eritrea to secede from Ethiopia in 1993 with Isaiah Afewerki at the helm. Unfortunately, Ethiopia has no hope of gaining access to the two aforementioned ports due to the political schisms between the two neighboring countries. On the other hand, the neighboring tiny nation of Djibouti that is populated by Somalis and the Afars, is overcrowded by naval warships from France, United States, China etc. Thus, Ethiopia feels it can manipulate Somalia, instead, through dubious political manipulation.

Oromization or Omotication of Somalis may not work for Ethiopia’s PM. Regardless of Oromo being the largest in terms of population, Somalis occupy the largest landmass that stretches from the Ethiopian occupied Somali region, Djibouti, and Northeastern Kenya. Among the Oromo, the Boran, the first born of the Oromo plus the Orma, and Wardei have heavy presence in Northeastern Kenya and the Tana River County, even though, they are outnumbered by the combination of Somalis. However, even though in modern times greater numbers in population are not the best ways to intimidate others, Ethiopia’s PM has set his feet in a political quagmire that may never have solvable solutions, because, his negative political distortions add up to his anticipated political failures.

While the MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland may not bare fruits, it was Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud’s political demonstration that caused global outcry, leaving the two who signed the MoU to be entombed in a state of political shame. It is worth noting that even the majority of the people Somaliland opposed and nullified the MoU in the strongest terms. Recently, at a convention by the elders of Lughaye, they unanimously opposed any attempts to lease the Port of Zeila to Ethiopia for the prognosticated 50 years. They termed the MoU as fallacious and exploitative. Going back to Somali history, the first political proposal for the unification of southern Italian Somaliland and the northern British Somaliland was put forward by the leaders of British Somaliland in 1960, a proposal that was put into force by Somaliland and unanimously accepted by both parties without any strings attached.

 A few years ago, Kenya tried to grab part of Somalia’s coastline, and after bitter struggles at the International Court of Justice, in the Hague, The Netherlands, Kenya lost its legal battle. With the longest maritime coast in Africa, Somalia boosts to have 3,325 miles of coastline that combines the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. With Turkey by its side, Somalia is guaranteed that no foreign force can attempt to interfere with its waters. Nations like Egypt and Sudan, together with Eritrea and others have pledged to support Somali sovereignty. The recent return of thousands of Somali troops trained by Turkey is a major gateway for Somalia’s military superiority over Ethiopia.

While Somaliland was part and parcel of the guerilla movements that was behind the collapse of Somalia in the early nineties under the banner of Somali National Movement (SNM), the main question is: why did the guerilla movement name itself Somali National Movement instead of Somaliland National Movement? Others like the Somali Peoples Movement (SPM) whose leader was Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess, the United Somali Congress ((USC) that was headed by General Mohamed Farah Aidiid, plus the first to arm itself in order to overthrow the existing military government of that time that preceded the rest and was known as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) that was headed by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, were generally after the removal of the military regime of Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre.

The man who was the head of the SNM was Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur who served as the President of the unrecognized Somaliland from 1991 to 1993. Even though Tuur at first envisaged the separation of Somaliland from the rest of Somalia, it was in 1994 when he changed mind and supported Somali unity. Born in Burao to the Garhajis subclan of the majority Isaaq, Mr. Tuur served in different portfolios from the British colonial era until the unionization of the northern and southern Somali regions. He was a true diplomat who served Somalia as ambassador in Sudan, Ethiopia, East Germany, and the United Arab Emirates until 1983.

For PM Abiy Ahmed, besides his much-debated suspicious PhD credential, one other aspect that created a sense of hullabaloo, is his garnering of the nondescript Nobel Peace Prize that he did not honestly deserve in the first place. While philosophy are two Greek words that translate to Love of Wisdom when latinized, with Philo’ meaning ‘love of’ and ‘Sophia’ standing for ‘wisdom’, generally, philosophy pertains to “the study of the basic ideas about knowledge, truth, right and wrong, religion, and the nature and meaning of life.” However, the man many expected to hold the mantle of African leadership immediately after he was inaugurated PM of Ethiopia, currently appears to have the characteristics of a wolf in a sheepskin if not disastrously a political chameleon.

One important factor that evades PM Abiy Ahmed’s faculty of thinking, is the Somali region that is claimed by Somalia and is known to even young Somali children wherever they may reside in the world today. Before jumping on the bandwagon of the Zeila Port MoU with Musa Bihi, it would have been worth deciphering the future ramifications the colonized Somali region would have on the future of Ethiopia if not handled amicably with neighboring Somalia through peaceful reconciliation efforts.

Likewise, while Oromia, Tigray, and Amhara regions could ultimately secede from greater Ethiopia sooner or later, the PM seems not to understand the sophistications of the political question marks in his own country. Going by the old adage, “things aren’t always the way they are and we think that conditions never change”, the PM himself may not know what the future holds for him for he may not survive Ethiopia’s irresistible political medleys. If I may touch a bit on the political characteristics of Ex Colonel Muse Bihi, like his comrade PM Abiy Ahmed, he has blood on his hands. The death and destructions he caused to the people of Las Anod remain recorded in Somali social and political history, and never at any time, will such records get erased from the victims’ living inheritors. Since every dog has its day, it appears that Abiy Ahmed and Muse Bihi had enough jest and mockery of their times in politics.

Adan Makina
Email: [email protected]

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Adan Makina is an essayist and the author of the book- The Northern Frontier District, the struggles of Deghow M Sambul, he is also WardheerNews editorial board member and its former chair.

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