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The Somaliland-Ethiopia Deal: Impact and Implications

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Dr. Gauri Narain Mathur

Ethiopia Plans Grid Connection to Power South Africa

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Ethiopia’s Electric Power (EEP) has set its sights on expanding its power grid and becoming a major electricity supplier in Africa. Their plan involves connecting the Eastern and Southern Africa Power Pools, ultimately delivering electricity to South Africa.

Ashebir Balcha, Director General of EEP, stated that his company was working actively to connect the Eastern and Southern Africa Power Pools in order to bridge the gap between Ethiopia and South Africa through Tanzania and Zambia.

This project is part of Ethiopia’s strategy to boost economic integration within the Horn of Africa through regional power supply. EEP is already exporting electricity to neighboring countries and have agreements or interest from others, including Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somaliland, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Ethiopia currently generates 5250MW of power and allocates 85% for domestic use, while 10% is dedicated to export. It plans to double its generation capacity upon completion of the Abbay Dam project. EEP expects to earn roughly USD 200 million USD annually from electricity exports once full-scale sales to Kenya begin.

The plan does not stop at South Africa. Ethiopia also aims to connect to Europe via Egypt by completing a second electricity infrastructure line, enabling power exchange between the continents.

Source: The Ethiopian Herald

Ethiopia and Puntland Agree to Enhance Multifaceted Relations

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Addis Ababa, April 3, 2024-The State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mesganu Arga, warmly received a senior ministerial delegation led by Puntland’s Minister of Finance, Mohammed Farah Mohammed, at his office today.

In their discussions, the two delegations explored collaborative opportunities in trade, investment, energy cooperation, and joint infrastructure projects to bolster and broaden the ties between the two sides.

The Puntland delegation emphasized the longstanding and fraternal ties between Puntland and Ethiopia, acknowledging Ethiopia’s support and collaboration, particularly in the security and education sectors.

The delegation also expressed the newly elected government of Puntland’s desire to strengthen its bilateral relations with Ethiopia, emphasizing the importance of focusing on trade, infrastructure development, and economic cooperation.

Ambassador Mesganu reiterated Ethiopia’s commitment to the relationship with Puntland and affirmed Ethiopia’s readiness to collaborate across various areas. He also extended a congratulatory message to the government of Puntland for the successful elections it conducted recently.

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Are bad days of Somali piracy back?

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Indian commandos stand guard with a group of detained pirates after the Indian Navy freed an Iranian fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, off the Somali coast, some 850 nautical miles (1,574 kilometres) west of the Indian city of Kochi. India’s navy said on Jan 30 it had freed an Iranian fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, the second in as many days, after the latest attack on Indian Ocean shipping. The warship INS Sumitra “compelled the safe release” of the 19 Pakistani crew members and the Iranian-flagged Al Naeemi fishing vessel, the spokesman said. — AFP

THE daring attack bore unsettling hallmarks of the piracy that once terrorised global shipping off eastern Africa: a cargo vessel hijacked, its crew taken to Somalia, and disappeared.

The successful capture of the foreign vessel recently was the first by Somali pirates since 2017, and followed a spike in armed seaborne attacks around the Horn of Africa not seen in years.

Analysts caution that Somali piracy poses nowhere near the threat it did in 2011, when navies around the world had to deploy warships to beat back the scourge and restore order at sea.

But the recent upswing in pirate activity raised further concerns about marine security and shipping at a time when crucial trade corridors off Yemen have come under siege.

The UK Marine Trade Operations, which monitors piracy, recorded six incidents off Somalia’s coast since mid-December, from approaches by crews armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, to successful hijackings.

The MICA Centre, a French maritime security agency, noted the “possible resurgence” of piracy off Somalia in a 2023 report.

It recorded nine attacks over that year, describing the number as “novel”.

Many of these incidents occurred off Puntland, the historic hub of Somali piracy. The northern state wraps around the Horn of Africa and boasts long coastlines on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Eric Jaslin, commander of the MICA Centre, said the increase occurred “almost simultaneously” as Yemen-based Huthi rebels began targeting vessels headed for Israel in retaliation for the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

“Almost at the same time, we began to observe a phenomena of piracy against dhows off the coast of Puntland,” he said, referring to the traditional wooden fishing boats that sail the Indian Ocean.

A number of dhow hijackings last year raised the possibility that Somalia’s dormant crews could be “re-equipping” for attacks further out at sea, said Timothy Walker, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Somali pirates have traditionally sought to capture a “mother ship” – a motorised dhow or fishing trawler – capable of sailing greater distances where they can target larger vessels.

Since the Houthi attacks, many cargo ships have slowed down hundreds of kilometres out at sea to await instructions on whether to proceed to the Red Sea, Walker noted.

“It creates a hunting ground,” he said.

These ships have become especially vulnerable as some foreign navies have relocated from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea in response to the Houthi attacks, analysts say.

Local conditions in Somalia have also allowed pirates to regroup.

Recent state elections in Puntland meant some coastal security positions were vacated, said Omar Mahmood, researcher at the International Crisis Group.

“These two reasons – on land and offshore – provided an opportunity for these criminal networks that have always been there,” he said.

Puntland’s marine police force did not respond to requests for comment.

In Eyl, a traditional pirate stronghold on Puntland’s east coast, locals say fishing trawlers from South-East Asia, Iran and Europe plundering seas off Somalia have stirred anger in coastal communities.

“The reason why the pirates are re-emerging is because of widespread illegal fishing on the coast,” said Ahmed Abdi Nuh, an elder from Eyl.

These attacks could still constitute piracy under global definitions and have surfaced time and again, experts say.

“A lot of justification for the pirates who were captured in the past was a kind of Robin Hood argument – that they were actually preventing illegal fishing,” Walker said.

Between Jan 29 and Feb 2 this year, four fishing boats were freed by the Indian and Seychellois navies after being hijacked, sometimes more than 1,500km from the coast.

“The further away from Somalia the less likelihood for a connection to a fishing scenario,” said Hans Tino Hansen, CEO of Danish maritime intelligence and security company Risk Intelligence.

Analysts played down fears that the bad days of Somali piracy were back, stressing that the presence of foreign navies had deterred once-wanton criminality at sea.

The overall number of piracy attacks has fallen sharply from a 2011 peak, when internal chaos in Somalia, and the absence of a coast guard allowed pirates to hijack commercial ships and hold crews to ransom.

Since then a multinational naval force from as far afield as Japan, the UK and Brazil has brought muscle to patrols around Somalia, blunting this once- lucrative trade.

Compared to the early 2000s, navies have advanced systems for detecting pirate activity and merchant ships are more aware of the risks and familiar with security procedures.

Before the hijacking of the Maltese-flagged bulk carrier MV Ruen on Dec 14, no cargo vessel had been successfully boarded by Somali pirates since 2017, and before that 2012.

Mahmood said the recent uptick in pirate activity was “more likely to be a flare-up than full-fledged resurgence”.

Call for regime change: Somaliland’s Yearning for True Leadership and Democratic Renaissance

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By Abdi Jama

In the dynamic political landscape of Somaliland, there is a resounding call for change as citizens grow increasingly disillusioned with the 13-year reign of the Kulmiye party. Over the past seven years, a leadership style reminiscent of a junta has prevailed, with President Muse Bihi and Interior Minister Mr. Kahin at the forefront. Under their administration, the country has grappled with various governance challenges, including issues of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. A sense of stagnation and growing public dissatisfaction have characterized this period, as these two divisive individuals have eclipsed the once-promising vision of the Kulmiye party. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed, social divisions have deepened, and the economy teeters on the edge of crisis. With harassment, intimidation, violations of human rights and free speech, widespread nepotism, clan-based conflict, diplomatic isolation, and the real possibility of civil unrest, the formerly tranquil and stable country is currently experiencing a worrisome decline into insecurity.

The upcoming election in Somaliland is a crucial moment, offering a glimpse of hope for democratic renewal. However, the current administration’s refusal to acknowledge the potential for electoral change indicates a troubling denial of reality. The Kulmiye party’s demand that the opposition, Wadani, concede to the election results beforehand is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process. This request, which is widely perceived as a desperate effort to cling to power, has only served to intensify the people’s concerns.

The fundamental issue is the people’s intense desire for a new direction. The majority of Somaliland’s population perceives the administration’s appeal as a disconnected attempt that does not address the urgent needs of the nation. Most people think that this year’s presidential election is not just another political competition but rather a crucial moment in the history of the country where leadership that has deviated greatly from the ideals of popular will and good governance will be removed.

Amidst the clamor for change, the Wadani party, led by the experienced diplomat Abdirahman Irro has emerged as a symbol of hope for many. Abdirahman Irro’s impeccable reputation for integrity and his ambitious vision for the future of Somaliland have earned him widespread support, making him the key to the transformative change that the country desperately needs. Under his leadership, there is a collective belief that Somaliland can navigate these turbulent times and embark on a path of genuine democratic renewal, national healing, and prosperity.

As Somaliland stands on the brink of change, the demand for regime change goes beyond mere political rhetoric. It is a sincere plea from the citizens for a government that not only reflects their aspirations but also tackles their long-standing grievances. The upcoming election is not just a power struggle, but a chance to determine the nation’s essence. The people of Somaliland yearn for a new beginning characterized by principles that should form the cornerstone of governance, such as honesty, openness, and the rule of law.

This article concludes by attempting to express the feelings of the people of Somaliland as they work to close a chapter of governance that has not lived up to their expectations. The call for regime change reflects the people’s unwavering desire for leadership capable of steering the country toward a more promising, democratic, and prosperous future.

The Government of the Republic of Somaliland reiterates its Self Determination including Self-Governance

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Press release:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Somaliland wishes to reiterate its unwavering commitment to self-determination and established governance structures.

The Republic of Somaliland underscores its status as a separate and independent nation, with a distinct political identity from neighboring Somalia. This independence extends to legal, political, and constitutional matters. For over three decades, Somaliland has functioned as a self-governing entity, maintaining its own independent legal framework.

The Government of the Republic of Somaliland highlights the absence of a mutually recognized constitution encompassing both Somaliland and Somalia during the union and after. The 1961 constitutional referendum in Somalia did not garner the endorsement of the people of Somaliland and its unilateral ratification by Somalia remains a point of historical separation for the two countries.

Somalia’s recent constitutional development is an internal matter and, as such, any attempt to apply this new constitution to Somaliland lacks legal merit. The provisions of this constitution hold no legal force within the sovereign territory of Somaliland.

The government of Somaliland reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its own constitution, ratified in 2001 through a transparent and democratic process. This document reflects the will of the people of Somaliland and serves as the foundation for its governance.

Somaliland remains steadfast in its pursuit of international recognition and peaceful co-existence with its neighbors. We reject any external attempts to impose jurisdiction or undermine our established legal and constitutional framework. We are committed to continued dialogue and cooperation with the international community based on mutual respect for sovereignty and self-determination.

UN Special Representative Highlights need Inclusive Dialogue during Puntland Visit

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Garowe – As part of her regular engagement with Federal Member States (FMSs), the United Nations’ top official for Somalia today visited Puntland for discussions on the state’s development humanitarian needs, and political situation in the country.

“We had the opportunity to have an open and frank discussion. I congratulated President Deni on the appointment of his new cabinet,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Catriona Laing.

The UN Special Representative who was accompanied by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, George Conway, made the remarks in a joint media encounter with Puntland’s President Said Abdullahi Deni, along with members of his cabinet and advisors.

Puntland Development Programme

Speaking of the discussions, the UN official said the first topic was around Puntland’s development programme.

“I’ve seen the outline summary that the government has put together with the various pillars, which is very clear,” said the UN official.

Ms. Laing reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment to working with and in support of the government and people of Puntland.

“I reassured the president that he has the support and the full commitment of the full UN family,” said Ms. Laing.

She said the presence of Mr. Conway who leads on UN’s development and humanitarian efforts in Somalia was a demonstration of that commitment.

During the discussions on development, the focus was also on the potential of fisheries, considering that Puntland has the longest coastline within Somalia.

“If Puntland can get to the point where it can meet international standards, fisheries could be a great export opportunity as well as of course a source of nutrition and livelihoods domestically for the population,” said Ms. Laing.

Nevertheless, she mentioned that despite the numerous development opportunities in Puntland, there are also several challenges to overcome.

 

“One of the challenges we’ve discussed is the recent cholera outbreak, which is very serious here in Puntland and the UN is scaling up our support to help the government tackle the cholera problem,” said the UN Official.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Puntland State, reported the highest cases numbering 351 with 23 deaths in the last four weeks, a spike attributed to limited access to safe water and open defecation especially in displacement sites, as well as resistance to common antibiotics.

UN partners – WHO, UNICEF and the Health and WASH Cluster, are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other government departments to address the situation.

FGS and Puntland relations

In their meeting prior to the media encounter, the UN Special Representative and President Deni also discussed ways to reduce recent political tensions due to the ongoing amendments to the Constitution, between the Federal Government of Somalia and the country’s FMSs.

Referring to the vote by the Federal parliament and the statement issued by the government of Puntland, she took note of the concerns of both sides on some substantive elements and also around the process.

“I was very pleased to hear from the president that he is committed to try and find a way through this to ensure that dialogue can continue with the federal government to ensure that there is an inclusive process and the whole country can come together to ensure that eventually the constitution at the federal level defines and ensures that the individual federal member states have their autonomy within that and can play their part,” said the UN official

 

Ms. Laing thanked President Deni for being open to find solutions to the current impasse.

“The future of Somalia is at stake. The country, which has so much potential and can’t move forward without the full and inclusive participation of Puntland,” said Ms. Laing.

Ms. Laing also reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment to working with and in support of the government and people of Puntland.

“And we, the UN, through my good offices, we are here to help find a way through this, “said the UN official.

During her visit, the fourth to Puntland since she took office in 2023, Ms. Laing also met with UN staff working in Puntland to discuss the humanitarian and development-related support activities being carried out by the UN agencies, funds, and programmes.

 

The Ethiopian-Somali Red Sea Agreement in the context of the geopolitical rivalry in the Horn of Africa

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The Ethiopian prime minister has repeatedly called Red Sea access an existential question for his country. [Reuters]

By Hakeem Alade Najimdeen

On 2 January 2024, Muse Bihi Abdi, President of Somaliland, a breakaway Somali territory, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. The deal grants Ethiopian navy forces access to 20 kilometres of Somaliland’s coastline in the Gulf of Aden for 50 years. Ahmed, in turn, agreed to conduct an “in-depth assessment” of Somaliland’s recognition. Based on the agreement, Somaliland also obtains a stake in Ethiopian Airlines. (1)

The move has caused controversy, and there are indicators that it will reconfigure geopolitical allegiances and cause further splits in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. However, given Ethiopia’s geographic and economic situations, as well as Somalia’s security crisis, all three parties involved have the potential to reduce tensions by avoiding being used by other geopolitical powers and finding a common ground to advance regional peace and prosperity.

Ethiopia’s geographical constraints and regional interests

Ethiopia is the largest and most populous country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east and southeast, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west, and Sudan to the northwest. Ethiopia’s quest for an outlet to the sea can be traced to the 1920s, (2) although this became apparent in 1993 after the country became landlocked due to the secession of Eritrea, its former province along the Red Sea. (3) Since then, Ethiopia has been eyeing sea access as the country’s governments believed the geographical location limits their economic growth and ability to utilise the prospects or solve the challenges that come with the country’s large population, which is estimated to be almost 130 million as of 2024. (4) The 1998 Ethiopian-Eritrean war, which remained unresolved until 2018, and the closure of the border between the two countries forced Ethiopia to rely on Djibouti for port access and trade. However, due to the country’s leadership and political agenda, relying on Djibouti isn’t enough because of its limitations in regards to Ethiopia’s geostrategic aspirations and economic interests.

 

The Ethiopian agreement with Somaliland came as a shock to many because of the status and controversy surrounding the territory; but a similar move was expected, although with other neighbouring countries. For example, the Ethiopian prime minister has repeatedly called Red Sea access an existential question for his country, worthy of holding talks with Eritrea. Also, fear of a new war spread across Ethiopia and beyond in November 2023 after a rumour that Ethiopia may invade Eritrea to secure port access. (5). Ahmed refuted the rumour, but the moves from some of its neighbours showed that they were not comfortable. Moreover, the deal with Somaliland has brought back bad memories, as Somalia and Ethiopia have previously fought fatal territorial conflicts, among which was the 1977–1978 war over the disputed Ogaden region, (6) wreaking havoc on their bilateral relations.

Ethiopia’s foreign policy for almost three decades shows that it is willing to get its way in the region by any means necessary. This can be seen in the MoU with Somaliland, which includes provisions for the Ethiopian government to conduct an in-depth assessment of Somaliland’s efforts to gain recognition, (7) despite the fact that Somalia, a UN member state, is the de jure holder of the territory and the United Nations (UN) does not list Somaliland as a member state. Somalia has demanded that Ethiopia rescind the agreement (8), which it calls “an act of aggression,” (9) and signalled its readiness to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. (10) Yet, it seems that, beyond commercial interests, Abiy wants the Red Sea presence as a legacy regardless of its implications. Some also believe it might be a way to reconstruct his image and administration, which have been tainted by the recent Tigray war (11) and the new conflicts in Amhara and Oromia. (12)

Somaliland: 33 years of pursuing independence

Somaliland is part of Somalia to the east in the Horn of Africa region. It is located strategically on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, bordering Djibouti to the northwest and Ethiopia to the south and west. The territory declared independence from Somalia in 1991 after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime, and it has since been a de facto state with its own functional government, steady democratic gains and relative stability compared to the rest of Somalia. Despite several attempts and efforts, no country has formally recognised Somaliland as a sovereign state, restricting its access to international markets. The region’s drive for recognition has led to the establishment of diplomatic presence in various countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, and the attraction of consulates to its capital, Hargeisa, as well as the unilateral signature of a port investment agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). (13).

Since Somaliland’s three decades of self-government, there have been failed efforts to unite it with Somalia, as well as appeals for peace between the two. In December 2023, following a meeting hosted by Djibouti’s President, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, in Djibouti, Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed an agreement to revive diplomatic talks, implement past agreements, resolve continuing issues, and strengthen cooperation on security and criminal activity. (14) The communiqué also urged both parties to resolve ongoing conflicts that recently flared up in the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, where violent clashes over sovereignty had broken out, as some residents in these regions aspired to not be controlled by Somaliland and to establish their own federal member state of Somalia, a position some believe threatens Somaliland’s struggle for independence.

Besides, it seems from Somaliland’s later agreement with Ethiopia that Abdi believed there are no contradictions between his agreement with Ethiopia and the communiqué with Somalia, and that the deal with Ethiopia is more significant because it had the potential to boost the territory’s quest for statehood and international recognition, especially given Ethiopia’s influence in East Africa and the African Union (AU). This explains Abdi’s support from some of Somaliland’s political leaders and pro-Somaliland residents, who voiced their desire for Somaliland to become Africa’s 55th state. However, there are indications that the deal could face significant obstacles due to criticism from some Somaliland lawmakers and residents. For example, demonstrations erupted in Borama, with protesters chanting, “Our sea is not for sale.” (15) Abdiqani Mohamoud Ateye, Somaliland’s Minister of Defence, resigned days after the Ethiopian deal was signed, stating in a local television interview that “Ethiopia remains our number one enemy.” (16)

The Red Sea access deal and the geopolitical rivalry in the Horn of Africa

The Ethiopia-Somaliland deal came in the light of a brewing geopolitical rivalry and power struggle in the Horn of Africa, emphasising the region’s crucial location along the Red Sea. The Gulf nations, Turkey and Iran are all involved in the contest, as are the United States, China and Russia. The region has been the focal point of a Saudi-Iranian rivalry on the one hand and an intra-Gulf conflict between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Qatar and Turkey, with the Gulf nations focusing on the Somali coastline for security and commercial reasons. This resulted in increased investment in ports, military bases and infrastructure in countries like Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. (17)

In addition, the situation between Somalia and Ethiopia is becoming intense as a result of the Red Sea access deal with Somaliland, as seen by the escalating diplomatic crisis, war of words and threats by Mogadishu to go to war to prevent the deal from being implemented. The AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have urged caution and reiterated their support for Somalia’s territorial integrity. (18). The AU also offered mediation and requested both nations to resolve the conflict via dialogue, but Somalia rejected it, saying, “There is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal MoU and reaffirms Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”(19) Meanwhile, Ethiopia snubbed the IGAD meeting in Uganda in January, which was meant to address Sudan’s conflict and concerns over the Ethiopian-Somaliland agreement. (20) On 17 February 2024, Somalia accused Ethiopian security of attempting to prevent its president from attending the AU summit, but the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, denied the claim, stating that the Somali delegation was stopped when its security detail attempted to enter a venue with weapons. (21)

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Sudan conflict, Israel’s war on Gaza and the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks have all limited the global community’s interest in the Ethiopia-Somaliland deal or the development relating to it. However, the tension between Somalia and Ethiopia has revealed a possible formation of alliances between regional powers and competitors in Africa and the Middle East.

On the one hand, Somalia has received support from regional and Western powers that support Mogadishu’s assertion of its jurisdiction over Somaliland and consider Ethiopian efforts to establish a presence in Somaliland illegal. The Arab League, led by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, expressed support for Somalia and condemned the agreement. (22). Egypt has had a strained relationship with Ethiopia for years over the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia built on the Blue Nile, but they disagree on its filling and operation. Also, Somalia and Turkey announced a defence agreement that includes backing for sea assets and allows Somalia to reassert its maritime sovereignty (23)—a move that many believe is intended to impede Ethiopia’s sea access agreement and place the Turkish navy in a strategically important region, thus giving Ankara a huge advantage over its competitors.

It is worth noting that since the signing of the Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement, numerous prominent US officials have released remarks (24) reaffirming the US’s support for Somalia’s territorial integrity (25). The United Kingdom (UK) also voiced its worry about the agreement, urging prudence and stating its support for Somalia. Nonetheless, there appears to be an informal softening of decades of positions in the West, such as a call from a US official to ease tensions between Somalia and Somaliland through dialogue on their shared future and the different diplomatic visits to Somaliland. In fact, one member of parliament in the United Kingdom, Alexander Stafford has advocated for the UK to recognise Somaliland after the Ethiopia-Somaliland deal. (26)

Still, some of the countries proclaiming their support for Somalia, including Western countries, have relatively “good” relations with Ethiopia. Turkey has a long history of investing in Ethiopia; and in 2021, the Turkish parliament approved a military pact with the East African country. There are also several memoranda of understanding (MoU) between Qatar and Ethiopia to improve bilateral cooperation. However, the UAE has been singled out as the major backer of the Ethiopian move to have a military presence on Somaliland’s coastline, not only because of the UAE’s support for the Ethiopian government during the conflict in the Tigray region but also because of a report that the Dubai-based logistics group, DP World, which is heavily invested in the Port of Berbera, the commercial capital of Somaliland on the south coast of the Gulf of Aden, has shown an interest in cooperating in developing the new Ethiopian port. (27)

Despite international and regional condemnations, the Ethiopia-Somaliland connection has endured, and work toward Ethiopian port access is said to continue. In late February, the Ethiopian Ministry of Defence and Uganda’s Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs (MODVA) signed a MoU to strengthen military and defence cooperation, improve information exchange, increase military capacity, and collaborate on regional security issues (28). Moreover, some see the UAE’s support for the Ethiopia-Somaliland sea access deal as a possible indication that the Gulf country could shift its policies in relation to Somaliland, while others are of the opinion that the recent $35 billion UAE investment in Egypt’s Ras El-Hekma region, among other UAE investments in the transcontinental country, (29) could influence Cairo’s position on the matter, possibly leading to a shift in position or soft-handling approach by the Arab League towards the issue.

Implications

Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland to gain sea access, as well as the consequent diplomatic conflict between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa, have the potential to exacerbate the ongoing Red Sea crisis. The circumstances surrounding the deal may bring developing conflicts to a head and significantly worsen regional instability in the region, which includes Sudan, which is experiencing catastrophic political, security and humanitarian challenges. Although the increased tension in the Horn of Africa is partially due to uncertainty about what could happen after the deal, some Somalis feel it will render their peace efforts and the December 2023 agreement with the breakaway territory ineffective.

Another possible implication is that if this agreement is implemented completely, it might further complicate Ethiopia’s sensitive relationship with Somalia and undermine the progress achieved by the Somali government to reintegrate into international institutions, resolve domestic issues and combat terrorism. Many Somalis have boycotted Ethiopian Airlines since the deal was announced, and there are also concerns that al-Shabaab would take up arms following the agreement. This security concern has been corroborated by the group’s call to protect Somalia’s land. (30) Some also fear Ethiopia’s decision to recognise Somaliland would encourage separatist groups currently fighting in different African countries.

The worst-case scenario, which is unlikely, would be an armed conflict involving Ethiopia, Somaliland and Somalia. This will certainly complicate the security situation in East Africa as a whole, impede cooperation agreements between Somalia and the United States in the fight against terrorism on one hand, and between Somaliland and its partners on the other. This will also have an impact on the foreign military presence in Djibouti as well as the interests of Gulf countries in the Horn of Africa. As a result, none of the three nations can afford wars; and the best approach would be to ease the tensions and deal with the new development based on common prosperity considerations and economic progress possibilities for all parties involved.

Finally, collaboration between the three nations is conceivable, particularly through regional institutions such as IGAD, or the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Somalia is now a member alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. Regardless of the geographical reasons and economic interests, signing a deal with a unilateral secession territory casts Ethiopia in a negative light as an untrustworthy neighbour in the region, especially as many believe Addis Ababa has other options for peaceful sea access, such as cooperating with Eritrea and Djibouti on fair terms for port use. Another option Ethiopia could have utilised is the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor, (31) which is now being developed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hakeem Alade Najimdeen is a Nigerian researcher specialising in social foundations, leadership and political developments in Africa.


 

REFERENCES

1- “Ethiopia signs pact to use Somaliland’s Red Sea port”, Reuters, 2 January 2024, https://shorturl.at/qxB48 (accessed 28 March 2024).

2- Samuel Negash, “Ethiopia’s Elusive Quest for an Outlet to the Sea: The Case of the Haud-Zeila Exchange from the 1920s to the 1950s”, Movements in Ethiopia, Ethiopia in Movement: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, 2016, pp. 257-271.

3- Christopher Clapham, “Eritrean independence and the collapse of Ethiopian centralism: Causes, consequences, and implications”, Geopolitics and International Boundaries, Vol. 1 No. 2, 1996, pp. 115-129.

4- “Ethiopia Population”, Worldometers, https://shorturl.at/bdjAG (accessed 28 March 2024).

5- Alex de Waal, “Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed eyes Red Sea port, inflaming tensions”, BBC, 8 November 2023, https://shorturl.at/oqKR2 (accessed 28 March 2024).

6- Gebru Tareke, “The Ethiopia-Somalia war of 1977 revisited”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33 No. 3, 2000, pp. 635-667.

7- “Ethiopia signs pact to use Somaliland’s Red Sea port”, Reuters, 2 January 2024, https://shorturl.at/qxB48 (accessed 28 March 2024).

8- Gioia Shah, “Somalia calls on Ethiopia to tear up deal with breakaway Somaliland”, Financial Times, 11 January 2024, https://tinyurl.com/yvuftct6 (accessed 28 March 2024).

9- Mohamud Abdiaziz Abdisamad and Kalkidan Yibeltal, “Somalia calls Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement act of aggression”, BBC, 2 January 2024, https://shorturl.at/cvCFK (accessed 28 March 2024).

10- Fred Harter, “‘We are ready for a war’: Somalia threatens conflict with Ethiopia over breakaway region”, The Guardian, 13 January 2024, https://shorturl.at/wCS36 (accessed 28 March 2024).

11- Christopher Rhodes, “How Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tore Ethiopia apart”, The Washington Post, 8 November 2021, https://shorturl.at/cfhoE (accessed 28 March 2024).

12- Center for Preventive Action, “Conflict in Ethiopia”, Council on Foreign Relations, 19 December 2023, https://tinyurl.com/9xzddfmm (accessed 28 March 2024).

13- Mariel Ferragamo and Claire Klobucista, “Somaliland: The Horn of Africa’s Breakaway State”, Council on Foreign Relations, 25 January 2024, https://tinyurl.com/53vbh68a (accessed 28 March 2024).

14- “Somaliland and Somalia agree to resume dialogue with a focus on reaching a deal on final status issues”, Horn Diplomat, 29 December 2023, https://tinyurl.com/4a2rwyhf (accessed 28 March 2024).

15- “Borama Protesters: Our Sea Is Not For Sale”, Somali Magazine, 7 January 2024, https://tinyurl.com/yrsdfuhx (accessed 28 March 2024).

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17- Hisham Aidi, “Geo-Politics in the Horn of Africa”, Policy Center for the New South, 21 January 2020, https://tinyurl.com/mrxaj5w6 (accessed 28 March 2024).

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Puntland no longer recognizes Somali federal government following constitutional amendment

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Puntland lawmakers cast their votes on a decisive motion to withdraw recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia, amid deepening constitutional disputes and calls for regional autonomy.

Mogadishu – Puntland’s regional administration announced on Sunday its decision to withdraw recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia, citing recent constitutional amendments as a breach of the federal pact that has historically united the country. The declaration from Puntland’s capital, Garowe, follows changes to Somalia’s constitution, approved by the Somali Federal Parliament, which have sparked political turmoil and concerns over national unity.

The crux of Puntland’s grievance lies in the Federal Government’s repeal of the 2012 Provisional Constitution and adoption of new laws that Puntland argues favour particular interests and threaten the federal structure. Puntland’s government has repeatedly warned that such unilateral actions by the Federal Government jeopardize the country’s unity and governance. The regional administration asserts that these changes violate the foundational agreements of Somalia’s federal system, as outlined in the Transitional Federal Constitution and the Puntland State Constitution.

Puntland claims its stance is backed by constitutional provisions, including Article 142 of the Transitional Federal Constitution, which preserves the powers of pre-existing administrations until a harmonization of constitutions is achieved. Article 4 of the Puntland Constitution also empowers the region to reconsider its integration with the Federal Central Government, especially if the federal system is compromised.

The background to this crisis is Somalia’s historic constitutional amendments, which have been a point of contention among various political stakeholders. The amendments, which alter the power dynamics between the president and the prime minister and introduce a multi-party system, have been perceived by Puntland and other critics as a move that could destabilize Somalia’s federal arrangement. The changes, notably the increased powers of the president, have raised fears of a centralized authority undermining the autonomy of federal states like Puntland.

The amendments were part of a broader constitutional review aimed at addressing issues such as women’s representation and freedom of expression, but they have inadvertently exacerbated a political divide. Despite the perceived lack of consensus among Somalia’s federal states, Puntland’s decision to withdraw recognition of the Federal Government was primarily motivated by the decision to implement these amendments.

In response, Puntland has declared its intent to operate independently until Somalia establishes a more inclusive and representative constitutional framework.

Before Saturday’s Somali Parliament vote, former presidents, prominent politicians, and Puntland State leaders strongly opposed President Mohamud’s efforts to amend and review the constitution.

 


TRANSLATED PRESS RELEASE:

PUNTLAND GOVERNMENT DECISION

GAROWE, March 31, 2024

Today, March 31, 2024, an extraordinary meeting was held in Garowe, the capital of Puntland Government. The meeting was held on the action taken yesterday, March 30, 2024, by the Federal Government Councils to repeal the Constitution approved in Mogadishu in 2012, instead of this, the approved laws were enacted with a new constitution that has vested interests. The Puntland government has warned many times that if it is taken, it will harm the unity, government and unity of the Somali nation. The Puntland government believes that the decision of the Federal Councils yesterday has annulled the laws and agreements that protected the unity of the country based on the Federal system.

The Puntland government, based on it

1. Article 142 of the Transitional Federal Constitution, which states “until the time when all the constitutions of the member states of the Federal Government are harmonized with the Constitution of the Federal Government, the Administrations that existed before the adoption of the Temporary Constitution, retain the powers conferred by their constitutions”,

2. Article 4 of the Constitution of the Puntland Government, paragraph 4, letters (b) and (t), which states “The Puntland Government is entitled to reconsider its integration with the Federal Central Government, if the Somalis They do not agree on a government structure that is not lower than the federal system, and prolong the instability and wars that are happening in other parts of Somalia.

3. Also referring to and implementing the decisions that came out of the general consultation conference of Puntland held in Garowe on March 17, 2020, Article 10 which was decided to

The government of Puntland can take any decision to save the fate and future of its nation that the Federal Constitution and Puntland allow and represent its people.

Therefore, the Puntland Government has reached the following decisions:

1) The Puntland government has lost the recognition and trust of the Federal Government agencies until a comprehensive constitutional system is found in Somalia, which Puntland is a part of.

2) According to the Puntland Constitution Article 4, Paragraph 3, the Puntland Government will have the power of a complete and independent government as long as there is a federal system of government, with an agreement, with a Somali constitution that is agreed upon, and a public referendum. which Puntland is a part of.
the base

3) In accordance with the basic article of the Constitution of the Federal Government of Somalia, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 2 of the Basic Principles, written as follows: the people who claim the independence of the federal republic of somalia or use the constitution specifically” so Hassan sheikh Mohamud canceled the constitution that was agreed upon and he was elected and sworn in. So, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has lost the constitutional rights of the Presidency.

4) The Puntland government welcomes and cooperates with anyone who recognizes and practices the constitution of the agreement that was approved on August 1, 2012.

5) The Puntland government negotiates directly with the international community and international organizations on issues related to its interests.

6) This decision passed by the Government Council is presented to the House of Representatives of the Puntland Government.

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE


 

Somalia law review divides political figures down the middle

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Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. PHOTO | POOL

Somalia is on Saturday expected to know whether a new constitution will be in place this year, becoming either the country’s new success story or a retrogress.

The Bicameral federal parliament is to sit in Mogadishu to pore over a series of amendments proposed by the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission.

But so much dust is raising already before the due date. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) specifically raised issue with proposals touching on age of maturity warning it could increase “the risk of child marriage and lowered juvenile justice standards – and possibly permit certain forms of female genital mutilation.

Traditionally, Somalia, like many peers considers anyone under 18 years as a minor. Now that age could be lowered to 15 as the “age of maturity” although 18 will remain the baseline age “of responsibility”.

“Somalia’s parliament should resist efforts to weaken constitutional protections for children, especially girls,” Laetitia Bader, deputy Africa director at HRW, said on Friday.

“Somalia’s donors should press the government to carry through on its claims that it is taking significant steps to meet its international human rights commitments.”

HRW says adopting this standard would be contrary to Somalia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as anyone under 18.

Somalia, however, isn’t unique on this front. It is one of the several countries that haven’t normally indicated the age of marriage of consent for sexual activity. Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, and Yemen have been criticised similarly.

“Somalia’s parliament appears poised to adopt amendments to the country’s constitution that could subject generations of children to harmful practices,” Bader said. “Constitutional reform should instead assist the government to better protect the rights of children.”

Child protection, however, isn’t the biggest problem for politicians here. This week, big names in Somalia have converged their opposition against constitutional amendment spearheaded by Villa Somalia, the state house in Mogadishu.

Former Somali presidents Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed met last week in Garowe town, the capital of Puntland, one of the Federal Member States (FMS) where they coalesced with Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni and other politicians including legislators from the bicameral parliament in Mogadishu.

On March 24, they issued a 9-point communiqué.

First and foremost, they expressed unequivocal opposition to current Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud whose administration was blamed of initiating changes to the provisional constitution in disguise of reviewing.

The controversial issue is the bicameral parliament started debate on the first four chapters of the provisional constitution with inputs submitted by limited number of politicians led by the state house.

Since the two former presidents affirm that the presidential palace is behind the current amendment sped up in a harry and affecting the most important chapters, they believe manipulation by President Mohamud and the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Peoples (Lower House). They have argued the whole exercise lacking consensus.

On Tuesday, the government of Puntland issued caution against the ongoing amendment to the Provisional Constitution, stressing that it will not accept any changes that do not reflect the states past commitment to a consensus-driven, federated governmental structure.

Since the beginning of last year, Puntland leader Deni had objected to proposals by Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) leader Mohamud, suspecting that he is inclined to promote a ‘dictatorial kind of governance.’

Thus, Puntland’s Deni missed many meetings between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Federal Member States (FMS), pushing to function like an ‘independent state,’ except on discussion with the central government on matters concerning the constitution.

Earlier, Farmaajo and Ahmed saw a faulty process being used in reviewing the constitution that could lead to fragmentation of the national unity.

The initiated constitutional review generated strong opposition from many other top names.

Abdirahman Abdishakur, MP, and former presidential candidate in 2022 and leader of Wadajir Party. He later became President Mohamud’s first Special Envoy for Drought and Climate Change.

“When I was running for president, I promised to lead the review and implementation of the provisional constitution,” Mohamud, who was elected in May 2022, stated last week.

“How on earth my term is going to end without giving my people a fully permanent constitution,” he added.

On Wednesday, Former prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre circulated a critical videotaped message for public information.

After narrating the long-process that provisional constitution in its formation since the rebirth of the Somali government in 2000, he insisted that Somalia is a constitutionally independent state, democratic and ruled via a multiparty system and public justice.

“Anything short of those basic principles is unacceptable,” Khayre reiterated, contrasting a proposed presidential system, abolition of the post of prime minister and rule by two-party system.

Like Abdishakur, Khayre underlined that the changes being made amount to unlawful constitution change.

“We cannot accept a government and a parliament unilaterally changing 45 articles with 97 clauses; introducing 19 new chapters with 94 clauses and removing 3 articles with 26 clauses,” he added, hinting that such process needs wide consultation.

The opposition to amendments also concerns power sharing arrangements between the Federal government and federal states, the special status of the Somali capital Mogadishu, Judicial Service Council and the Constitutional Court.

On Thursday, a copy of the amended constitution was distributed to the senators and MP, hoping that they will go through over Friday and approve it on Saturday.

Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur Madobe (Adan Madobe), the speaker of the Lower House, asked the legislators to come on Saturday in big numbers to endorse the constitution, despite many lawmakers showing their opposition to the process.

“After the approval, you can go into recess and go for pilgrimage to holy sites in Mecca, Saudi Arabia,” Adan Madobe said.