Gulf states are competing for influence in the Horn of Africa to control the Red Sea, transposing internal rivalries onto a fragile region. Horn governments should increase their bargaining power with their powerful neighbours, who should recognise the risks their policies pose to regional security.
Ruling and opposition parties agreed to hold long-delayed elections this year, and talks with Somalia suffered delays amid renewed efforts toward Somaliland’s international recognition. Ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani 12 July signed agreement to hold long-delayed parliamentary and local elections in 2020 and tasked electoral commission with drafting roadmap. Following June resumption of talks with Somalia over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty, committees tasked with hashing out technical issues failed to meet in Djibouti after Somalia postponed meetings, citing need to focus on internal politics. Taiwan’s FM 1 July announced that Taiwan and Somaliland – both of which seek international recognition – had signed agreement in Feb to establish diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals. Somalia President Farmajo 4 July met China’s ambassador to Somalia who expressed Beijing’s respect for Somalia’s unity while Farmajo in turn affirmed his support for China’s “One-China policy”. President Bihi 3-22 July received high-level Kenyan, Egyptian and Ethiopian delegations to discuss bilateral relations. FM late July travelled to Turkey to meet with senior Turkish officials. In centre, inter-clan fighting early July left at least three dead in Togdheer and Saahil regions.
Somalia and Somaliland have been at odds since the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence, which the former rejects. The dispute has cooled after heating up in 2018, but lingering tensions could threaten regional stability. To restart dialogue, the two sides should meet for technical talks.
A dispute between Puntland and Somaliland over the contested areas of Sool and Sanaag risks escalating into open war. The UN, supported by states with influence on the two sides, should renew diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire and press both to enter negotiations.
Somaliland’s clan-based democracy has consolidated a state-like authority, kept the peace and attracted donors. But the territory now needs to reform its political bodies, judicial institutions and international engagements to protect itself from continued fragility in neighbouring Somalia – which rejects Somaliland’s independence claims – and civil war in nearby Yemen.
The stalled electoral process has plunged Somaliland into a serious political crisis that presents yet another risk of destabilisation for the region. If its hard-won political stability collapses under the strain of brinkmanship and intransigence, clan leaders might remobilise militias, in effect ending its dream of independence.
Recent developments have made the choice faced by the international community considerably clearer: develop pragmatic responses to Somaliland’s demand for self-determination or continue to insist upon the increasingly abstract notion of the unity and territorial integrity of the Somali Republic – a course of action almost certain to open a new chapter in the Somali civil war.
Originally published in openDemocracy
Originally published in D+C - Development and Cooperation