Somalilandsun: In the past few months the Somaliland diplomatic mechanism has gone full throttle in which major alliances have been established while some old ones appear to be in the doldrums of being discarded.
The diplomatic huff now surrounding Somaliland which is yet to be recognized international as a sovereign nation three decades after withdrawing from its 1960 voluntary later turned fateful Union with Somalia was the pact with Taiwan.
A short while later Hargeisa the Somaliland capital was host to a swaggering team of officials from Egypt that ensued with the pharaohs promising Somaliland the heavens, read recognition, if availed a military a military base in strategically located Berbera Port which straddles the Gulf of Aden.
These new relationships have not gone down well with China on one side that are unhappy with the deals with Taiwan and Ethiopia over the indulgence with Egypt.
Though Somaliland is desperate for Sovereignty recognition from any quarters the choice of friends is very crucial at this particular period when global powerhouses like the United States, Russia, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE among many others are jostling for Naval supremacy around the world’s busiest waters.
The Strategic location of Somaliland makes it an ideal site for any of the foreign powers to weild immense authority over the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (“Gate of Tears” in Arabic) which forms a vital strategic link in the maritime trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal On one side of the narrow strait lies the Arabian Peninsula. On the other is the Horn of Africa.
The global importance of the ‘Gate of Tears’ waters that are main route of over 70% of Oil exports to the West has resulted in the convergence of mighty foreign powers based in the Horn of Africa region countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Somaliland and Somalia.
These 4 countries in the Horn of Africa are hosts to 10 foreign military bases while more foreign bases are being negotiated. Djibouti alone hosts 6 of the foreign bases operated by the United States (US), France, Italy, Japan, China and Saudi Arabia. Eritrea hosts Russia and United Arab Emirate (UAE) bases. Somalia also hosts a Turkish military training facility while the self-declared independent Somaliland hosts UAE’s second base.
While Russia has denied pursuit of a base in Somaliland a quest that had received wide support from the local populace of the unrecognized country, who hold President Vladimir Putin in great esteem for his unrelenting support to Syria’s Assad, the Pharaohs upon return from Hargeisa were heard trumpeting over rooftops in Cairo that they have clinched a deal for a military base in Berbera.
In Addis Ababa the Ethiopian authorities did not take kindly to this yet to be acknowledged development by the Somaliland government thence the immediate dispatch by PM Abiy Ahmed of a high level team led by his finance minister Ahmed Shide.
Now since Somaliland is and has for the last three decades pursued recognition of its Sovereignty without Success Egyptians have been a major stumbling block especially within the Arab League where the Pharaohs wield immense clout.
This overt Anti-Somaliland recognition in Cairo is directly related to the River Nile whose waters though emanating from Ethiopia are source of a huge percentage of livelihoods in Egypt. The premise by the Pharaohs here is that a United Somalia shall act as backstabbers to the Ethiopians in case of any military confrontation by the two over the waters.
To this effect the Pharaohs apart from fighting tooth and nail against the recognition of Somaliland has also been actively engaged with various authorities in Somalia over the years, and has chipped in a great deal of diplomatic and financial muscles.
After the start of the civil war in Somalia in 1991, Egypt maintained diplomatic relations with the Transitional National Government and its successor the Transitional Federal Government, and supported their state-building initiatives. As part of the International Contact Group, the Egyptian authorities participated in various global summits in support of the Somali peace process, including the Khartoum Conference in 2006, the Djibouti Conference in 2008, and the Cairo Conference in 2010
The subsequent establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia in August 2012 was welcomed by the Egyptian authorities, who re-affirmed Egypt’s continued support for Somalia’s government, its territorial integrity and Sovereignty.
The governments of Egypt and Somalia engage in close development cooperation. Much of this work is channelled through the Arab League and the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with Africa. In conjunction with the Somali Institute for Diplomatic Studies, the Egyptian authorities also organized diplomatic training for Somali government officials in 2010
In June 2013, Egyptian Ministry of Defence officials arrived in Mogadishu to help reconstruct the national Ministry of Defence’s offices. In 2016 the Pharaohs offered to equip the Somalia armed forces despite a then existing arms embargo imposed by the UN.
In December of the same year Egypt and Somalia signed two multimillion dollars as part of Cairo’s boost to economic relations and expansion of joint cooperation in the field of local and international fairs between the two countries.
In the entire period when the Pharaohs were enhancing relations with authorities in Mogadishu as in protecting the territorial integrity and Sovereignty of Somalia the only tangible Egyptian intervention in Somaliland was and remains the deployment of a few secondary school teachers.
To exemplify the love Cairo holds for its brotherly people of Somaliland is rundown Egypt Cultural Centre next to the presidency in Hargeisa which last saw a coat of new paint over fourty years ago.
And as the our new friends, from Egypt we’re dilly dallying with Somalia and frustrating the quest for recognition at all fronts, guess who stood shoulder to shoulder with Somaliland, it was none other than Ethiopia.
The Ethiopians have stood steadfast with Somaliland at all times and for a long time while according us, statehood protocols beginning with the establishment of a fully fledged diplomatic office in Hargeisa manned by a resident General Consul.
In this same period the nonrecognition of Somaliland has resulted in a very difficult international travel for its citizens despite a few countries accepting its passport as a valid travel document.. Apart from Ethiopia the other countries allegedly accepting the Somaliland passport like Djibouti see to it that the passport which is not stamped with an entry visa is also mandatorily left at the airport.
This has left Ethiopia as the only gateway to the world for Somalilanders who can enter the country with visas issued at the consulate in Hargeisa which allows them legality to conduct all legal businesses in the neighbouring country.
The nationhood protocols accorded Somaliland by the federal government in Addis Ababa are not consigned to issuance of visas but very expansive as they include numerous bilateral Agreements in various sectors like security cooperation, cross border movement of people, and Trade among others.
Ethiopia has time and again proven that it is a true Ally of Somaliland through provision of hundreds of educational scholarships to Local students for high studies in various universities in that country as well as availing specialized training to the Somaliland defence forces.
But to crown this unwavering friendship was a pledge made in Parliament by former Prime Minister Hailenariam Desalegn in March of 2013 in which he said
Somaliland is a friend and a key strategic ally for Ethiopia. We will spare no expense to defend and protect Somaliland. We are ready to extend an arm of support to our Somaliland brothers every time they are in need of one,”
While declaring bi-partisan support for Somaliland in the case of military action against the threat from neighbouring Somalia and other external militants such as al Shabab, PM Desalegn underlined the long bilateral relationship between the two Horn of African states saying Somaliland and Ethiopia cooperate on many fields including security, economy and education.
At this stage in time and despite its enhanced diplomatic status Somaliland can not afford to trade Ethiopia for Egypt and more important the Pharaohs should now be appraised to the fact that the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a foregone Conclusion.
Ethiopia is a Long-term Tested and Trusted Ally of Somaliland, Egypt is an Upstart and self-seeking country unworthy of even a meet in Hargeisa.