Ethiopia Losing Its Way (Part III) – OpEd


In part two of this series of “Ethiopia Losing its way,” we noted that “the region would go once again into a new cycle of violence which it does not need.” The controversy of the matter is not one of leasing of a port. Some of the ports of Somalia are already managed by other countries and they include the port of Mogadishu, which is currently managed by a Turkish company and the port of Berbera, which is managed by a UAE company.

It is, indeed, an attempt of acquisition of a region of Somaliland by Ethiopia through a dubious process of which, even the administration of Somaliland, let alone Somalia, the sovereign owning nation, is not aware and unprepared for. Ethiopia has been whining, as always, of lack of access to a sea forgetting that it never had access to a sea except for a brief period during which Eritrea was infused through, again a dubious process, into Ethiopia, and which gave rise to the thirty-some war of liberation by Eritreans which ended in its independence in 1993. 

The region, although inhabited by the same group of people, has always been divided into the highland people and the lowland people and respect of the two groups were always mutual. Each, however, stayed in its turf and attempts by one or the other to take over the another’s territory either through deception or force always ended in vain and failure. The case of Eritrea or the attempt of Somalia to take back the Somali State in Ethiopia are but prime examples of the recent such attempts.

The most disheartening of the current attempt of the Ethiopian Administration to find its way into the sea is the propagation of an MOU, which entices a weak partner (a small group of men and women in Somaliland not involving its own citizenry and population and other important parties within the region including its own ministers) desperate for recognition and willing to pay/or give away anything to earn wrongfully  a fistful of dollars, since they know that their time of stewardship of Somaliland is over, and promises recognition of Somaliland in some indefinite time in the future.

The Ethiopian Administration, of course, made a big error, in its assessment of the situation. They assumed that the Somali quarrels have reached a point of no return to Somali-ness. How wrong is the Ethiopian Administration is this regard! It has brought back to live the Somali self and the Somali spirit and the Somali soul. The Ethiopian Administration forgot that Somalia is the only country in Africa which made its borders in 1960 and overruled the colonial borders unlike the rest of Africa. Its central governance died in the process of making further changes to those borders when it attempted to take back the Somali State in Ethiopia in the last century. 

In its recent troubled history, Somalia  and Somalis were, indeed, prepared to forgo the ways of the old, and the antagonisms that prevailed and they were prepared to live at peace with Ethiopia and Ethiopians. The old ideologies of separateness and discords were being dumped and the people of the Horn of Africa States were prepared to live with each other, trade with each other and be as good neighbors as they can be.

Alas! The new Ethiopian Administration saw weakness in this closer relations on the part of Somalia and Somalis. The new Administration forgot that Somalis are organized as clans who may live in distant lands but would come to rescue each other in times of trouble. The Ethiopian administration, indeed, forgot that Somalis are some sixty million strong, some of whom who live at its doors  and in the power corridors of his administration, while others live in the seats of most powers in the world and that they have a say in the decision-making processes of many countries. The Ethiopian administration further forgot that Somalis are in the armies of the most powerful countries of the world and some countries even name some of their regiments after Somalis, like the Somali battalions in Ukraine. The Administration, indeed, forgot that a third of Ethiopia is actually a Somali territory and that Somalis constitute a large part of some twenty-five to thirty million people in his own 120 million i.e. between 20% to 25% of its own population. No sensible administration as weak as Ethiopia with its own internal strives and external pressures, embarks on interfering in  a neighboring nation, like Somalia.

The actions of Ethiopia in this new 2024 has thankfully galvanized the Somali and reminded them of their place in this world, their country and their seas and lands and the social media outburst is a better presenter of this than we could ever do in a few lines. Somalia was one of those few countries that did not ratify the African border resolution of 1964 in Cairo, Egypt and considered many parts of the Horn of Africa, inhabited by Somalis as part of its territory and to be reclaimed. Since then, it has accepted Djibouti (Ex-French Somaliland) as a separate state and came to live with the Somali State of Ethiopia as part of Ethiopia and the NFD of Kenya as part of that country. 

This new attempt to break up the country is seen by Somalis as an afront to its existence and triggers a giant sleeping lion to reclaim its turf. Did the Ethiopia Administration help the peace of the region and the world, for definitely other powers would get involved such as the UAE, the fly that must fall into every trouble spot in West Asia and Africa and even in other parts of the world? Egypt and Turkey, and of course the big powers like the United States, the UK, France, Russia and China would also be involved. Hasn’t the Ethiopian Administration only caused more chaos in the region adding to its own woes in the Amhara State, in the Benishangul State and in the Tigray State and, in its won turf, the Oromia state, and others?

The 2024 actions of the Ethiopian Administration were probably designed to appease the rising anger against it by its own population, but it has backfired on it as most nations of the world do respect the sanctity and sovereignty of Somalia despite its fractured governing system, which it has been working on and with success for some years amending  to reconstitute itself. The wrong aspiration of Ethiopia to take over other people’s lands and seas could not be as wrong as anything could be, in this twenty first century, when Africa and especially the Horn of Africa States were supposed to be closer together and cooperating. A few bucks from that troubled country in West Asia may have been the trigger of this wrong policy and would not help it appease its own population. Was this also triggered by the want to obtain un pugno di dollari  using that 1964 film of Sergio de Leone before the FANO arrives in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia must be losing its way!

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

One thought on “Ethiopia Losing Its Way (Part III) – OpEd

  • January 10, 2024 at 4:27 am

    Right on as usual Dr. Suleiman . It makes wonder why ethiopia under Abiy admin has chosen this hasty and law in the jungle path instead of going through legally proper way and in accordance with the international norms. Simply put it ; it was unbridled opportunism, short-sightedness and above all a clumsy foreign policy formulation. As you mentioned it, Somalia has plenty of potentioal lucrative seaports. It is not only the Zeila and Lughaya ports but dozens of others for commercial and investments purposes and ones that ripe for bargain rates offers and neighborly discounts depending on the bargaining skills or techniques of the client and his future vision and mutual interest of all sides. But this unexpection action of belligerentce , militarism, expansionism and short cuts on the part of ethiopia has blew up the whole thing . Big time.


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