By Mohamed Ibrahim
This week we have witnessed the unprecedented signing of the Memorandum of understanding between Somaliland and Ethiopia which has sent shock waves in the Horn of Africa and beyond.  The MOU involves the development of an Ethiopian port for the purpose of trade and military in Somalia’s seas situated in Somaliland in exchange for economic benefits and alleged recognition for the state of Somaliland, which will be finalised in the coming months.  This gives land-locked Ethiopia of over 100 million people strategic access to a red sea port to enhance its increasing demand and influence in the region/beyond.
This agreement in my view is illegal as it violates the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the Somalia’s Federal Republic and warrants all diplomatic and political condemnation possible . Somaliland has made great strides in its political development as the only relative democracy in the region,  apart from Kenya. However, despite their claim for independence, this will ONLY require a political negotiation with Somalia to either form a union or divorce for good. Somaliland cannot just run away from its obligations without amicable resolution with Somalia.
While the road to independence is dialogue with Somalia, Mogadishu cannot also  ignore the political reality on the ground.  Somaliland’s development is unique and has not been part of Somalia’s revised constitutional process since the third republic process started and therefore is not member of the Federal government negotiated in the Arta or Imbagathi peace process.  It is also fundamental to point out Somalia only knows what it can reject on the Somaliland question but lacks imaginative political plan or blue print for a Somali union.  It is becoming pointless to sight territorial sovereignty and integrity in the absence of a political plan to keep the union together .
There are ongoing political dialogue on the development and revision of the Somali transitional constitution which will require final ratification. The executive in agreement with the federal member states leaders has al;so discussed political changes involving a shift to a presidential model of government with a vice president and a parliament. It is also relevant to point out Somaliland is not party to these discussion or negotiations.  While these changes represent another political experiment,  it is not going to solve the fundamental under belly of Somalia’s political instability, which are essentially about real or percieved power imbalance structure and lack of political reconciliation that has led to political  fragmentation at the centre and prephery . Somalia urgently requires all encompassing political settlement that does not involve winner takes all political settlement and would at the same time help solve the Somaliland question. In my view, since the fundamental issues at play is power imbalance and reconciliation. To move fordward, Somalia should adopt a rotational presidency involving all members states leaders with the inclusion of Somaliland in that process. This will in the short run create broad-based inclusive politics that enhances reconciliation, fosters political trust and reduces political fragmentation. This might be a away of out the impasse that has undermined the Somali union.
What we have witnnesed this week in Eithiopia is symtoms of our political fragemtation and politicall instability across Somalia. I have warned many times in my observations below that Somaliland or regional and international interest is not going to wait for political stagnation in Mogadishu. We have entered the era of post 1945 international order with its unpredicability and political turmoil. Somalia needs urgent pivot towards a sustainable political settlement if its to survive or avoid further dislocation.
In summary, beyond the emotions and political rhetoric, nobody is entitled to a political union that creates poverty and misery both politicallly and economically at cost of the other. Somaliland has forged a clear direction of political and economic purpose – where does Mogadishu wants to go? and business as usual is not going to cut it for Somalia and beyond.



Mohamed Ibrahim BA/MSc, London School of Economics and Political Science, is a
keen writer and social justice campaigner, London-based, He can be reached via