(Kudos Nahur – Hargeysa, Somaliland)
Somaliland’s delegation has been in United Arab Emirates (UAE) negotiating with DP World for the management of Berbera Port. But all of a sudden, local media reported that the Somaliland delegation reached agreement of military base with UAE. The deal came like bombshell to Ethiopians and Somaliland military planners alike. The Arabian military base would be the first foothold since the 1977 war between Somalia and Ethiopia.
The Horn of Africa, which roughly consists of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somaliland, has recently seen rivalry. On one side Israel, Saudi Arabia, and UAE; on the other side Egypt. Israelis backed by Saudi Arabia want to restore their historical ties with the people of the Horn of Africa before the Wahhabism philosophy spread with anti-Semitic propaganda. Already, the state of Israel has friendly ties with Addis Ababa.
When United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB) led Somaliland, the government openly dealt with Tel Aviv. Whereas the current ruling party Kulmiye party – whose name roughly translates as “the one that brings together”– brought Egypt, UAE, and Ethiopia, and Somalia to the same playground to get material benefit out of these shady ties. Many security analysts forewarn the conflicting interests of these nations may set Somaliland on fire reminding of Somali proverb “greed doesn’t see its death.”
Ethiopia is a serious ally of Somaliland. Surely, Somaliland could never have enjoyed peace without Addis Ababa’s support. Ethiopian Prime Minister in his address to his parliament even stated categorically that his country would fight alongside with Somaliland forces against any invader. Kulmiye party led by Presidential candidate Muse Bihi, who opposed Ethiopian stabilization ‘invasion’ of Somalia, signed the dubious military deal with the UAE. However, the ups and downs in the ties between the two countries, Addis Ababa still committed to protect Somaliland militarily if the latter comes under attack from terrorist or any other country and this may change given on the prime minister’s yesterday interview with Al Jazeera Arabic.
But many of his political cronies including Mohamed Kahin strongly advised Muse Bihi, the ruling party presidential candidate – who said in an interview with Ethiopian Reporter that Ethiopia blocks Somaliland’s recognition not to visit Cairo as that can be construed stabbing in the back of ally. More than half of the Somaliland key cabinet ministers resigned because of this suicidal policy only which only further alienated the only ally Somaliland ever had.
There is growing opposition both in military and civilian circles in Somaliland against the militarization of Somaliland ports by a rogue state. Aljazeera Arabic interviewed Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn about what the journalist called “the ongoing (war) games of ports” . The reporter alarmingly asked the prime minister in Arabic whether Arabian investment of Berbera bothered him (in terms of security)? The prime minister eloquent in English responded diplomatically: “it’s okay as long as the investment doesn’t endanger our national security and interest”. The interview in Arabic never mentioned the UAE military base at the all, despite the reporter being very alarmist.
With the blessing of First Lady Amina Waris, Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Sa’ad Shire visited Cairo. The visit was conducted secretly to avoid public anger, given Cairo’s past role in the genocide against the Isaac clan in 1988 to1991 in Somaliland. This is his third or fourth visit to Cairo and Dubai. The local press in Somaliland reported the sale of seaport Berbera to ‘Egyptian’ and UAE joint military venture.
Somaliland is sitting on a time bomb. This move is locally viewed by senior politicians as not only a military misadventure and recklessness, but also as declaration of war on Ethiopia, Somaliland’s key ally in the global arena. “This decision to militarize our civilian ports and airports by foreign Arabians won’t affect our key ally Ethiopia who we are very much in common,” murmured the Aviation Minister Farhan Adan Haybe, junior Aviation Minister. Mr. Farhan is unaware that his remarks reaffirmed the rumors that a UAE military base is to be established in Berbera port.
There is growing fear that Somaliland militia can be used by foreign power for ulterior motive. But this wrong decision to allow Egypt to hide behind a UAE port enterprise may plunge the region into deadly proxy war between Ethiopia, Israel, and Saudi, on one front, Iran, Egypt, UAE, and Russia – which built the Berbera’s military airstrip in the 1970s – on the opposite front. Somaliland’s current ruling group monetized their foreign policy. “Fools rush where angels fear to tread” regardless of consequences. They don’t care about the future of 3.5 million people.
Muse Bihi was a pilot of Somali air force during the Ethiopia-Somalia war of 1977, in his interview with local TV HCTV, he startlingly admitted: “I brutally bombarded Karamara’ (Ethiopia)” to fuel anti-Ethiopian sentiment. To please his Arabian bankrollers whom he promised to give Somaliland, as if it is no-man’s land, in exchange of Camels and two mansions in Dubai beach for his children. This man is not known for staying out of controversy. Recently he quoted a politically motivated character assassination article, published by the Kenyan newspaper the Star, against the most popular party Wadani. The news article now removed from the website was about the party negotiation of Somalia reunion.
Last month, thugs on the government payroll attacked Wadani officers for their opinions. For instance, an officer from a minority tribe was covered in blood after dozen men ambushed him to assassinate him. The situation may escalate to all-out war if Ethiopia doesn’t intervene. Muse doubled down his controversial remarks to gain voters. it might be safer to postpone the next election.
Egyptians have been looking for small foothold in the Horn of Africa so that they destabilize the region and advance their sinister agenda. Now, they want to reassemble the competing entities of Somalia, to unify Somaliland and Somalia, and eventually to turn it into a launching pad and battleground.
Going back to early 1990s, Egyptian mines and military dynamites killed Somalilander kids playing hand-made football. The Arabic language written over the crates reminded parents of their brutal role in unwarranted genocide in Somaliland in 1988 to 1991. Arabs are also against oil explorations in Somaliland for obvious reasons.
Last week, when the drought culminated, Saudi Arabia banned Somaliland livestock on ‘health’ grounds. But it could be because of political or religious motivations, since Somaliland rejected Islamism of brutal Sharia law.
Somaliland has no military expertise to monitor the UAE military bases. The Russian trained soldiers are aging. If undercover Egyptian agents come to Somaliland to destabilize the region, Somaliland current leadership has no military and intelligence know-how to detect, it is obvious.
Ethiopia should take proactive role
Addis Ababa is a global diplomatic hub. Therefore, it has a huge political and diplomatic leverage to pressurize Somaliland to stop the ongoing militarization of the Horn of Africa. Somalilanders believe that Addis Ababa is a global voice for Somaliland’s recognition in the international arena. According to Wikileaks, the late Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi asked the world to give Somaliland “interim status” or partial recognition when the Arabs wanted to keep Somaliland a pariah.
Addis Ababa can recall its diplomats from Hargaysa and seal off the shared border. Thousands of potential visitors on transit in Ethiopia including Sultans and Chieftains will take to the streets in Hargaysa chanting, “bring him/ her back”. We can’t expect security threats to disappear suddenly. Addis Ababa can’t rule out a military crisis if. for example, the Yemeni Houthis station in Berbera because they’ve super weaponry than Somaliland.
“They might be speeding up development of Berbera now to have a base out of Houthi missile range. It is possible Assab port of Eritrea will be focused more on supporting operations in Yemen and Berbera will be primarily used for conducting naval and air operations in the Bab al-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden with the U.S. and Egypt,’ as a security analyst said in an interview with Shephard Media.
According to analysis by foreign experts, Somaliland’s presidential election results will be declared without the president’s knowledge and it may trigger deadly conflict setting the region ablaze if Muse Bihi makes a military coup by rigging the result. The state’s resources are already at his disposal.
The Somaliland public rallies behind their brother country of Ethiopia. However, if Addis Ababa does not react to the ongoing militarization of the red sea, there would be no tomorrow, it will soon involve in quagmire of facing militants. The status quo isn’t an option.