Since Abiy becomes the prime minister of Ethiopia April this year, closely eight months ago, he makes and embarks unprecedented transformation in Ethiopia.
First, he withdrew Ethiopian troops from the disputed land between Ethiopia and Eritrea, especially the border city BADME and submitted to Eritrea. The two countries had been at loggerheads for more than 20 years, but the show of camaraderie between their leaders augured a rapprochement.
Additionally, as part of this coincident pact, they agreed upon to restore the diplomatic tie and end the feud which rift nearly 20 years since 1998-2000 war among them. Furthermore, Eritrea allows Ethiopia to have an access to its ports on the red sea. Moreover, Ethiopia requests to the United Nations to lift Eritrea the sanctions. The deal could have more significant implications for Eritrea, a country that is sometimes referred to as “Africa’s North Korea.”, because, the country was politically isolated closely one decade.
On the other hand, Abiy continues to visit horn of Africa countries. In June this year, he visits Somalia, especially Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia where he receives a warm welcome, and instantly commences to beef up its relation with Somalia. He was escorted to the country’s presidential palace for talks.
After they had a meeting, said collectively that they will be investing in major infrastructure projects including ports and roads. This step, many naysayers rebuked and more crowds showcased suspicious. Because, Somalia and Ethiopia were having historically and contemporary intrusive and harsh relations.
Eritrea and Djibouti relations and the role of Somalia: Farmajo becomes pioneer and catalyst towards this agreement!
Djibouti and Eritrea diplomatic relations was despicable since 2008, but it’s restoring gradually nowadays after Eritrea and Djibouti have agreed to normalize ties a decade after a border dispute led to brief military clashes among the states. In the mean time, the Somalia president his Excellency Farmajo visits Asmara which contributes the normalization of the diplomatic relations among the horn of Africa countries.
Additionally, Farmajo pledges to lift the sanctions on Eritrea. The pledge of the Somali president anguished Djibouti, because Djibouti is accusing Asmara a land and prisoners which they occupied during 2008 clashes between Eritrea and Djibouti. In this respect, the Somali president visits Djibouti in order to thaw the diplomatic ties among the brotherly states, Somalia and Djibouti.
On the other hand, this diplomatic overture gives Eritrea an opportunity to join the political landscape in the region. Because, Eritrea with closely 5 million population becomes politically isolated, and called the north Korea of Africa. And this reform bequeaths a political space and it depletes closely one decade of sanctions.
Horn of Africa bloc: Potential Collective Gains, but Djibouti should be added!
This new dawn should serve and enhance the political and economical weight of horn of African countries including Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, and at the same time will host unprecedented development across the region. It thaws the diplomatic ties, it augments the trade and economic relations, and it softens the free movements among the citizens of the respective countries. Furthermore, it solidifies the security endeavors if this agreement confronts delicately and seriously. But, Djibouti’s vanish in this pact can wish-wish the agreement. So, there is an immense need to join Djibouti the incremental peace process among the region.
The trade war among China and USA propels Proxy war in the region
China is implementing developmental projects and botching mixing commercial and military interests since 2015, including Doraleh multipurpose port and Masterpiece China’s first overseas military base. In addition to that, July this year China has helped launch the first phase of Africa’s biggest free trade zone as what’s part of another major step to secure its position as a global trade leader. Mean while, Djibouti is already, the only U.S. military base in Africa. So, this trade war among the heavy weight countries could cause detriment against the region if isn’t fixed carefully.
Distinguish allies fuel the conflict of interests
Somalia has solid and unwavering relationship with the Turkish government since 2011, when the abject famine hited Somalia. Turkish implements ample developmental projects in Somalia including building infrastructures. While, Ethiopia has a new relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is boosting behind the curtain by the United States of America (USA), so, this hotspot could trigger the conflict of interests among those countries, and leads also , a proxy war.
The tripartite summit: Horn of Africa Bloc
Asmara hosts the first meeting between the leaders of the three countries earlier September this year. This pioneer meeting was initial phase and consultations. So, the three leaders signed in Asmara of the Joint Declaration on Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation between the three countries. The second meeting was taken place in Bahr Dar-Ethiopia, the capital city of Amhara region in 9-10 November.
The aim of this second meeting was, to asses and follow up the singular and plural developments and attainments of the three countries made since the first meeting. Ultimately, their joint statement was focused, to consolidate their mutual solidarity and to fix out the challenges they face singly and collectively. Additionally, they agreed upon and emphasized respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Somalia. Moreover, they evoked the impending lifting of all sanctions against Eritrea in order to expedite the incremental peace process across the region. Finally, the final meeting is going to be happening in Somalia, especially Mogadishu.
Sharing isn’t caring and politics has no moralities!!!
Although the unity and solidarity among Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea contributes the peace, development and security across the region, but in the mean time, it doesn’t mean that, each and every one of these countries beams others. Because, Ethiopia has its own interest, Eritrea has the same and Somalia must have the same.
Farmajo’s Government offers further concessions in order to prevail its oppositions!
Some political commentators say that, the federal government, notably Farmajo is offering additional concessions so as to defeat his dissidents including the leaders of the regional states.
The naysayers explicitly say that, farmajo is planning to paralyze and demoralize the regional states leaders by stopping them to get any support from the neighboring countries including Ethiopia and Kenya.
Somalia: Pros and Cons of this bloc
Somalia had been suffering and languishing for the last three decades for sack of civil strife, external meddling of our internal issues. Eritrea tends and behaves hosting the dissidents of the Somalia government. In this regard, the first advantage of Somalia towards this bloc pact is, to disband its oppositions from Eritrea. The second advantage is, Somalia has the longest coast in Africa, so Ethiopia should invest our ports.
Additionally, Ethiopia is over 100 million population, they will be our potential business market. Also, Somalia gains free movement across the region. In the mean time, one of the cons in our side is, Somalia is fragile state, our troops are not well-equipped, so we don’t have plan (B) if one of these countries violate the agreement. The other ail is, Djibouti is not in the room. Djibouti’s inclusion in the agreement gives Somalia physical and moral support.
Political, Economical and Social Advantages and Disadvantages of this pioneer Bloc
Ethiopia: Advantages and Disadvantages
Ethiopia is called the China of Africa, as longest they are over 100 million population. So, this large number of people doesn’t have sea. So, they utilize and benefit from the ports of Somalia and Eritrea. Additionally, if the security becomes reliable and the freedom of movement among the three states becomes dependable, then Ethiopia benefits its labor force to Somalia and Eritrea. Moreover, Ethiopia is preventing a future close relationship between Eritrea and Tigre Region in Ethiopia. Because, the Tigre ethnic group reside and live both Eritrea and Ethiopia. So, Abiy offers further concessions to Eritrea in order to deepen the hean relationship among Eritrea and Tigre region in Ethiopia under TPLF administration.
Eritrea: The Goodness and Badness towards this bloc
Eritrea was demonized by the former regime of Ethiopia led by Tigray ethnic people. So, they encountered sanctions since 2009 and considered as Africa’s North Korea. Their first advantage is, to lift the sanctions in order to rejoin the political landscape of the region. Moreover, Eritrea should gain an investment to its ports from Ethiopian government. The other side of the coin, this reform which is taking place across the region may have an impact to its internal politics. Because, Eritrean people should look the changes which are happening in the region and they demand the same revolution to be happen in their own country, so Isaias Afwerki may encounter oppositions who demand change. Because, for the last two decades, the Eritrean citizens were guided by defending their own country from their enemy, Ethiopia. So, now the game is off, what is next?
Local solidarity empowers the foreign policy: Common challenges among them
Ethiopia is multi-ethnic country. Their political system is based ethnic federalism. EPRDF, which represents only four regional states out of nine states, is leading the country for the last three decades. There are outstanding and blatant differences among those ethnic groups. Abiy, the prime minister of Ethiopia is isolating Tigray ethnic group as longest they were leading mostly EPRDF’s era. Amhara and Oromo were united at the beginning of the demonstrations against the Tigray rule in 2015, and they were having “Oromara” mantra which denotes their solidarity against the Tigray.
But, when Abiy becomes the prime minister, his Oromo ethnic group embarks to target and fight every ethnic group which fizzle outs all the ethnic groups in Ethiopia including their specially ally (Amhara). Additionally, within Oromo, there are different groups including:-
- Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) which is leading by Dr. Abiy Ahmed
- Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) which is leading by Lencho Letta
- Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which is leading by Daud Ibsa
- Qeerroo which is leading by Jawar Mohamed
- Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) which is leading by Merera Gudina
These huge differences indicate that there is lack of consensus within Oromo and Ethiopia as whole. And also, denotes lack of political stability which can lead potential change in Ethiopia’s leadership. Furthermore, Abiy’s administration treated badly the Somali region in Ethiopia after he meddled the internal affairs of the region. The federal troops intruded the Somali region in 04 August and jailed their president his Excellency Abdi Mohamud Omar, who is known as CMC. So, there is public angry and backlash against the Abiy’s administration. So, the trust of Abiy’s administration is depleting among the other ethnic groups as longest he keeps his jealousness against others.
On the other hand, if we observe deeply, Amhara ethnic group leading by Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) , previously known as Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) was the only group which was leading by Amhara ethnic group, but nowadays, there is also an outstanding group erupted in Amhara Kilal, which is called National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) , also there is Ginbot 7 which Ethiopian parliament lifted the terror label before a few months ago also has a huge influence in the Amhara Kilal. The other regional states including Afar, Benashangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Harari and others are looking delicately what is going on!.
Somalia, there is ample political differences among the federal and regional leaders. And this differences can detriment and debilitate the unity, solidarity and power of the Somalia government. Also, it makes the Somalia’s position in the region peripheral, as longest there is this difference within the Somalia government.
In the case of Eritrea, isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea is leading the country since its independence in 1993. He aged 72 years old which makes him the oldest leader in the region. Their political system is Unitary One-party presidential republic. So, there is a potential demand for political change in Eritrea.
Oromo-Somali Cushitic Alliance versus Bantu-Amhara Alliance
As he indicates , Prof Kagwanja former Government Adviser and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute , his outstanding article which is titled “ Resurgent ethnic nationalism shaping geopolitics in the horn” denotes this new pact among Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea is aiming to supersede the old geopolitical alliances based on the nation-state , which before April this year seemed to rest on a sturdy “Bantu-Amhara Alliance” and he addes, that this new bloc which is dominating Oromo ethnic group is fueling ethnic nationalism.
Somalia needs collaboration not collusion!!!
There is strong cross-cutting notion which says, Ethiopia is going to overarch the Somalia politics and economics in a way of collaboration and democracy among the horn of Africa region. Additionally, Abiy suggests in the future having only one president in the region which can lead a form of annexation.
Moreover, it was amazing and shocking when an Ethiopian official says “we are a nation of 100 million, so we can’t be lack of sea” so, this provocative speech creates sensitivity among us. Furthermore, an Uraga boy asks Abiy during the latest convention of EPRDF, we want as an urago ethnic group to have a new regional state.
Abiy responded “why you need having new state, you will work in the future in Somalia” and this sentence faces different interpretation among Somali people. Some people say, he aimed that Somalia’s premise will be under Ethiopian rule.
- Yes indeed. There is a drastic need for collaboration among the region, but Somalia should persist and be clear its stance. And at the same time defends its single and plural interest
- Somalia should advocate to add the bloc Djibouti , because they complement each other and receive collectively moral support and solidarity
- This pioneer bloc must serve reciprocal relations among the countries in the region
- Somalia should take care the agreement before its implementation
- Somalia should address its internal differences including the stalemate among the federal and regional states leaders
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir
Freelance Journalist and Independent Researcher