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Safeguarding Somalia’s Sovereignty Stabilizes the Red Sea Region

By Faisal A. Roble

On January 1, 2024, Ethiopia surprised the world with an MOU it signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland.  Although President Hassan Sheikh of the Federal government nullified the agreement eight days later, Ethiopia’s determination to access the Somali sea is undeterred.

Horn of Africa and the Middle East region/ credit USIP

Ethiopia says it signed the deal to lease 20 KM sea strip for 50 years, an area to establish a naval base, and a future port in Awdal region of Somalia without consulting the Somali government. In exchange, it will break up Somalia by recognizing Somaliland.

Out of the reunification of former British and Italian Somalilads, the Somali Republic  was created in 1960. Whereas Italian Somaliland was placed under UN trusteeship between 1950 and 1960, Great Britain’s decision to guarantee independence to Somaliland came at the last minute. The British finally conceded in December 1959 to work toward independence for Somaliland.The two united the very night Italian Somaliland became independent – July 1, 1960.

Five days after unification, a draft of the “Act of Union” drafted by former British Somaliland in anticipation of unification was enacted on July 5, 1960 which read as follows:

“Section 1(a) stated that “the State of Somaliland and State of Somalia do hereby unite and shall forever remain united in a new independent … the name shall be the SOMALI REPUBLIC.”

Somaliland leaders initiated the unification document in April 1960 and joined the south in haste because they wanted to avoid acute internal clan rivalry at the time.  Although Somaliland declared a unilateral secession from the Somali Republic in 1991, the division that existed then is stocking the region now with vigor. The conflict in the Khaatumo region and the destruction of Las-anod by Somaliland soldiers eroded earlier democratization hopes for Somaliland. In the Awdal region, tensions resulting from stern objection to the MOU havefarther destabilized Somaliland

Proponents of recognition for the breakaway region would like to align Somaliland’s quest for statehood with US national interest. However, Somali-American voters overwhelmingly breaking up Somalia Somalis are part of the US landscape.

The United States invested about $2.5 billion in Somalia, mainly in security assistance to arm the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and its successor, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS); This is money well spent. Unlike the cases of Afghanistan or Iraq, US engagement of Somalia is nuanced and does not involve boots on the ground, except a small number of troops requested by the Pentagon to support the fight against Al-Shabab.  

The Federal Republic of Somalia has emerged from its challenging conditions. As the gateway to African trade connecting the continent with the burgeoning Middle East’s financial markets, Somalia is    biled an investment frontier. It has conducted  five presidential power transfers; it has worked closely with international donors, IMF and the World Bank offered it $4.5 billion debt relief last year; the UN arms embargo was lifted in 2023 repealing resolution 733 (1992). It also succeeded in joining the East African Community (EAC). These impressive developments encourage the US to partner with the Federal government of Somalia.

Since 1960, the  US, EU, Turkey, the Arab world, and African Union, have stood by Somalia’s sovereignty even when the state colloped in 1990.   Ethiopia’s current move to destabilize Somalia with the ill-fated January 2024 MOU prompted Washington to denounce it as a destabilizing and a “threat” to US interest in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Somalia is a member of the African Union, Arab League, Islamic Conference, and the East Africa Commission. It also belongs  to the Red Sea group, and is a gateway to the Middle East nations. Destabilizing Somalia is also a threat to all these nations.

The recent US-Somalia cooperation to build five military bases for Mogadishu and the Turkey-Somalia military pact is a positive addition to helping Somalia protect its sea waters. With Al-Shabab still alive,  Al-shabab. assisting Somalia in developing its to police its over r 4,400 KM coast line, including along the Gulf of Aden is in the interest of all stakeholder.

Compromising on Somalia’s sovereignty at this time would greatly destabilize the country and the region. It could also inadvertently help Al-Shabaab. A better alternative for the US and friends of Somalia is to commit to working with the Federal of Somalia and advise its leaders to come up with a workable model for a way to engage the breakaway region and bring it back to the fold.

Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]

Faisal Roble, the former editor of WardheerNews portal is Principal City Planner and  CEO for Racial Justice & Equity for the Planning Department, Los Angeles City.

Related articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. 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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