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 resolved long-running dispute over composition of electoral commission, opening way to organisation of delayed parliamentary and local elections. Following consultations, mediation committee of businessmen and elders 16 Dec released recommendations to end electoral dispute, including dissolving recently appointed electoral commission and reinstating former one. Ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) accepted committee’s recommendations. After meeting with President Bihi, UCID and Waddani leaders agreed to give govt until 10 Jan to implement committee’s recommendations and announce new election date. Ethiopian security forces 19 Dec crossed into Somaliland and opened fire on civilians killing three in Allay Baday. In Sanaag region, two warring clans 22 Dec signed agreement to end conflict in El Afweyn district.
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