Thursday, April 18, 2024
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New Bully on The Block: The Peril of Abiy Ahmed in the Horn of Africa

By Dr. Mursal M. Khaliif, a member of Somalia’s Federal Parliament

After Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, there was a meeting between Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, and US Secretary of State, James Baker, in Geneva on January 9, 1991. When Tariq Aziz returned home to Baghdad, there’s a highly rumored story about his debriefing with Saddam Hussein. The story goes that Saddam Hussein could not wait at the presidential palace and that he met his foreign Minister at the airport. When Aziz deplaned and heard that his boss was waiting for him at the airport, he immediately joined Hussein in his presidential limousine. Then Hussein asked him how did the meeting go? To which Aziz replied: well, Secretary Baker cited UN resolutions and that all options are on the table for the US. Saddam Hussein promptly interrupted and in a highly energized manner, asked 3 questions: Did Baker say that they, the US, will kill us? Did he insult you? Did he yell at you? Aziz replied No to all 3 questions. Hussein then took a sigh of relief and said they, the US, are just bluffing. What followed was a disastrous war for Iraq which resulted in a series of UN and Western sanctions leading to the demise of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) and President Muse Bihi of Somaliland

History is replete with examples of powerful autocrats overestimating their abilities and miscalculating opponent’s will to defeat them. And Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, will soon join as one more example of that long history. On January 1, 2024, Abiy Ahmed declared a war on Somalia by signing an illegal memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the leader of a disputed breakaway region in parts of Northern Somalia. This MoU grants Ethiopia the unlawful right to annex land and sea legally belonging to the Federal Republic of Somalia.

The significance of this MoU is, first and foremost, not lost on the date it’s been signed. The very day Ethiopia joined BRICS, most likely under Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship, is the day this MoU was signed between Ethiopia and Somalia’s disputed breakaway region. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots about Putin’s interest in acquiring a naval base at the Red Sea and his planned support of the Ethiopian regime’s expansionist ambitions. Ethiopia, under Abiy Ahmed, is one of eight African countries abstaining from the UN vote condemning Russia’s brazen and illegal invasion of Ukraine. The geopolitical & geoeconomical implications of Putin gaining a foothold in the Gulf of Aden and the Babel-Mandeb Straits should be a serious cause for concern to the United States and it’s allies.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud of Somalia has rightfully characterized the illegal MoU as a “declaration of war on Somalia and a direct attack on Somalia’s sovereignty”. As a result, the Federal Republic of Somalia has undertaken a series of diplomatic and legal measures to counter Ethiopia’s plans to annex sea and land. Within 24 hours, both houses of Somalia’s Federal Parliament passed legislation nullifying the MoU and warning Ethiopia against further steps against Somalia’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Additionally, Somalia’s diplomatic efforts resulted in emergency or expedited meetings by international or regional bodies such as The Arab League, IGAD & United Nations Security Council. Statements from over a dozen countries, from United States to China, have also called for respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Federal Republic of Somalia. No single country has come out to support Abiy Ahmed in his quest for land grabbing.

Those arguing that the disputed breakaway region of Somaliland is deserving of a sovereign recognition, as reportedly promised by Abiy Ahmed in the nullified MoU, willfully ignore the fact that three out of the four Somali clans inhabiting in the region overwhelmingly reject secession from Somalia. And many in the fourth clan have been engaged in efforts to thwart secessionist claims for many years. Any attempt to grant such sovereign recognition, as propagated by few elites belonging to a single clan, will spark a renewed civil war in that region.

If Abiy’s adventurous expansionism goes unchecked, the results will most definitely be beneficial to Al-Shabaab,  the biggest Al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group in Africa. The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Mike Hammer, has publicly stated that the US is getting reports of Al-Shabab using news of the MoU as a recruitment tool. This, coupled with the high likelihood of inter-clan fighting, will create an ample opportunity to be exploited by Al-Shabaab and other bad actors in the region. For the sake of regional and global security, a resurgence of terror groups & other armed conflicts are unacceptable.

To paraphrase Keyser Söze, played by Kevin Spacey in the academy award winning movie The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick ever pulled by Abiy Ahmed is convincing the West that he’s worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. In 5 short years, his resume boasts three raging civil wars, allegations of war crimes, famine, widespread food insecurity and being at an all time low relations with most of his neighboring countries. Unless he’s stopped on his tracks, his latest reckless adventurism in planning to annex Somalia’s sea and land will surely set ablaze in an already volatile region.

Dr. Mursal M. Khaliif
Email: [email protected]
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Dr. Mursal M. Khaliif is a member of Somalia’s Federal Parliament, serving as the Chairman of The Parliamentary Committee on Friendship with the United States, and a member of The Parliamentary National Defence Committee.

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Related articles:

1.Safeguarding Somalia’s sovereignty stabilizes the red sea region By Faisal Roble

2. The Horn of Africa at a Crossroads: Ethiopia’s Quest for Sea Access, Somalia’s Resistance By A Hirad & A. Abdullahi

3.National dreams, uncertain reality: Ethiopia’s red sea ambitions By Daib Ahmed

4 .Ethiopia’s sovereign access to the sea: A potential catalyst for the revival of Somali nationalism By Mohamed Rage

5. The disastrous effects of the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU By Dr. Baadiyow

6 .State decay: The case of Ethiopia and the Somali demand for self-determination By Faisal Roble

7. Repercussions of acrimony: Al shabaab receives new year’s gift from Ethiopia By Adam Aw Hirsi

8. Ethiopia-Somaliland deal: A threat to Somalia and regional stability in the horn of Africa By Ahmed I.

9. Into the abyss: Somalia to become the century’s Armageddon theatre By Adan Ismail

10. Somalia triumphs in diplomacy: Safeguarding sovereignty By Aydarus Ahmed 

11. Countering the dangerous ideology of PM Abiy Ahmed By A Baadiyow

12. Somalia must reconsider its policy towards Somaliland amidst the Ethio-Somaliland MoU By M.Rage

13 .What will become of Abiy Ahmed’s ‘acts of aggression’ against the Somali people? By Dr Aweys O.

14. A pact cast adrift: Navigating the legal maelstrom of the Ethio-Somaliland accord By Dayib Sh. Ahmed

15. The escalating Ethiopia-Somalia rift: A precarious path to conflict By Hassan Tahir  

16Has Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed failed history at the school? failure in history may lead him to failure in leadership By Prof Abdisalam M. Issa-Salwe and Abdullahi Salah Osman

17. Abiy Ahmed’s MoU with Muse Bihi threatens Horn of Africa stability By Abdirahman Baadiyow

18-Calculated ambiguity: A sovereign port, access to the sea or a naval base? By Prof Ezekiel Gebissa

19-The historical search for a sea outlet and leadership legacy By Faisal A Roble

20 .Ethiopia and Somaliland deal: A declaration of war against Somalia By Hassan Zayla


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