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Somalia’s De jure Outweighs Ethiopia’s De facto Argument.

Somalia’s De jure Outweighs Ethiopia’s De facto Argument.

Ethiopia announced an MOU with the Northern breakaway region of Somaliland on January 1st of this year, promising Addis-Ababa 20 kilometers of marine land in exchange for Ethiopian recognition for Hargeisa. In Somalia and around the Horn of Africa, this has caused a popular uproar. Ever since PM Abiy dared to go, the government of Somalia and its esteemed citizens worldwide have protested and staged a million-Man march against this egregious betrayal of their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Addis-Ababa has been working to further destabilize Somalia by providing numerous forms of support to the former warlords, ever since the country’s central government was overthrown in 1991 by militias loyal to their clans and heavily armed.

In that warlord-era, Ethiopia has been in a competitive position to take advantage of Somalia’s internal affairs due to the warlords’ deceitful deed. The second chance Ethiopia had to meddle in Somali affairs came in 2006, when the late president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s government called in the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), supported by the US, to try and stop the Islamic Courts Union, which was taking control of most of the country’s South-Central regions, including Mogadishu. Taking advantage of this opening, Ethiopia killed a large number of civilians while pretending to be battling the ICU. Over 20,000 civilians have died and many have been displaced since Ethiopia has been present in Mogadishu.

The Somalia government’s successful operations against Al-Shabaab, the improving relationship between the UAE and Somalia, and Somalia’s neutral position in the dam dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia, are the biggest pet peeves of Abiy’s administration.

What Motivates Ethiopia to take such an Assertive Stance in the Red Sea?

The Tigray War’s End. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been at odds since the end of the Tigray conflict and the signing of the Pretoria Agreement in November 2022. President Afwerki and Prime Minister Abiy have been leveling allegations at one another. Abiy desired to defeat his rivals and fool Afwerki anytime. When the Amhara and Oromia regions opposed Abiy, he desperately tried to win over Afwerki once more, but to no avail. Abiy has thus often declared that obtaining a route to the Red Sea is his goal. Their relationship has been drastically worsening ever since.

Ethiopia became a landlocked nation in 1993 when Eritrea gained its independence. Because Eritrea is a militaristic state, Abiy would not have been able to invade Eritrea with force; instead, Abiy approached Somaliland because it disagrees with Somalia and assumes a lesser one. Thus, Hargeisa offered Addis 20 kilometers of sea land in a Memorandum of Understanding in exchange for Addis’s first official recognition of Somaliland as an independent state.

Ethiopia’s Presence in Somalia.  The other factor is that Ethiopia is one of the African troop-contributing countries and contributes more than 4000 ATMIS troops and additional non-ATMIS troops, especially in the South-West and Jubbaland states of Somalia. These Ethiopian troops not only support Somalia’s bid to defeat Al-Shabaab militarily, but they also provide intelligence support to Addis. As such, Abiy assumes that he understands the weak points of the Somali government.

UAE Bipartisanship. Arranging the United Arab Emirates, a Middle Eastern sovereign state, has been positioned as a great middleman in the volatile politics of the Horn of Africa. Amid the Gulf Crisis in 2017, Abu-Dhabi was forced out of Somalia when its ambassador was dislodged by the previous administration. Thankfully, diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Somalia were rapidly strengthening when the new administration was inaugurated in May 2022. Similarly, Ethiopia and the UAE are growing closer. Abu-Dhabi is confusingly trying to strike a balance between Ethiopia’s greatest diplomatic relations and Somalia’s intermittent one. This controversial bothsidesism has given PM Abiy the opportunity to navigate his craving ambition of getting a sea gateway by hook or by crook.

On May 20, 2021, the United Arab Emirates, via DP World, inked an agreement with the Ethiopian government to work in the field of infrastructure and construct a commerce corridor up to Somaliland. Ethiopia appears to be given greater attention by the UAE than Somalia. As a result, Abu-Dhabi supports Abiy’s destabilizing actions in the Red Sea.

To stop Ethiopia from taking an aggressive stance in the Red Sea, Somalia should seek assistance from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, and the Arab League.

Somalia is bouncing back from the devastating effects of the civil war and moving forward. Somalia has been able to lift the 32-year-old arms embargo, join the East African Community, and secure debt relief last year. It has several forums to defend and seek aid from its cogent diplomacy. The sovereignty of each member state is respected by all international organizations, such as the United Nations, African Union, Arab League, and various regional organizations like the East African Community. Uncomfortably, IGAD issued a biased statement regarding the simmering conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia, despite the organization’s mandate respecting national sovereignty.

The deteriorating Blue Nile case between Ethiopia and Egypt present another opportunity for Somalia. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is being expedited by Addis in an attempt to convert it to hydroelectric power. As tit-for-tat politics, Mogadishu must lead the way in close partnership with Cairo. Fortunately, President Hassan Sheikh and President Sisi have spoken and are scheduled to meet shortly. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the nations that make up the Arab League, and numerous other international organizations fully support Somalia.

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