02 Jul Somali Talks on the Banks of the Arabian Gulf
Yesterday, while I was quite busy my phone rang, and without identifying the caller, I answered and heard to my surprise the voice of an old friend from sister country Somalia whom I haven’t met for more than two years. She told me that she finished her study in Canada and currently holds an eminent position in a European university. Following a long conversation, I discovered that my friend hasn’t changed very much, but rather her sense of her Somali identity has doubled and has established a youth association that is closer to a political party and which involves the most prominent intellectuals of Somalia, even those elite living in occupied Somali territory as viewed by Somali citizens and confirmed by historical records. What drew my attention most is that my friend didn’t ever addressed me in the singular form, but rather repeated the word “We”, and sent me a picture featuring map of “Greater Somalia” and captioned “this picture will be the focus of our discussion; think of it carefully, so you may rediscover me”. After less than 48 hours time of that call, my friend arrived in my home country “UAE”, and I welcomed her for I believe she is a symbol for a promising future Somalia.
When I handle the Somali issue, my own office must be full of papers that contain a lot of facts about Somalia. Despite my strong memory, I feel the need to re-read these facts summarizing achievements realized, failures multiplied, conspiracies plotted, and regional and international collusion that deliberately aimed at eliminating history, geography, and people in Somalia.
I don’t intend to discuss ancient Somali history and the right of Mogadishu in territories some of which turned into independent sovereign states such as (Djibouti), or into integral parts of other states’ territory like (Ogaden region in Ethiopia and Enfedi region in Kenya), but I definitely believe in the historic imprescriptible right of Somalia.
In the few coming days Somalia is looking forward to presidential elections, hence the country looks hopefully to a new phase and seeks to fulfill it. In the meantime, Somali citizens await that quantum leap which may once again restore their country among “real countries”.
Today, Ethiopia seems indifferent to the large number of Somali presidential candidates, firstly because it takes it for granted that the strategy adopted in Somalia for decades will remain unchanged whoever the Somali president is. Secondly, Ethiopia is assured that most of the presidential candidates are politically flexible and far from revolutionary ideology it much fears; moreover, some of whom retain old ties with the Ethiopian leadership that led them one day to assume political positions denied to others who opted for national interest.
I think that Addis Ababa has achieved significant and positive steps that made it superior not only to Somalia but even to the whole Horn of Africa, especially after the recent rush of Gulf delegations supporting its development orientation and political vision and recognizing it as a real influential power in the Horn of Africa. This coincided with the near inauguration of the Renaissance Dam in July 2017, at which the peoples of the Horn of Africa look with much hope in terms of development. This is added to launching a railway connecting Addis Ababa with Djibouti Port and which will start daily passenger transportation in January 2017. In addition, Addis Ababa plans to construct a 5,000 km railway network linking it with Kenya, Sudan, and South Sudan and which will be completed by 2020.
Considering these positive developments, I expect the Djibouti-Ethiopian-Kenyan-Sudanese and South Sudanese relations to strengthen more than ever before; accordingly, the coming Somali president will have to avoid speaking of the historical right of Somalia. Instead, he should undertake to fulfill his missions and confront challenges, foremost of which is to restrain or rather eradicate the danger posed by terrorist organizations which keep destabilizing the country and people and hindering development, besides creating a national strategy to regain autonomous regions (Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland) under the central administration.
The high interest of Somalia dictate maintaining unity based on security and development, or otherwise the culture of disagreement will prevail amid a society that is homogeneous by almost 99%. The next Somali president could follow a strategy that may begin to realize aspirations of all the Somali society parties; and while I believe Ethiopia will realize in the near future that supporting terrorist organizations in Somalia is not in its favor if really willing to extend the course of development it initiated to the Horn of Africa countries, but I hold that Addis Ababa will wholly or partly retain terrorism in Somalia in order not to achieve complete stability in Somalia which will subsequently encourage the Somali public opinion to claim its historical rights.
Gulf Countries between Somalia and Ethiopia
The GCC countries interests in Somalia seem to be different from those in Ethiopia; I’m not attaching importance to Gulf-Ethiopian interests at the expense of Gulf-Somali interests or vice versa, but rather believe that Somalia’s strategic location which overlooks the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean is much more crucial for Gulf security than Ethiopia. In addition, Somalia has several strategic seaports such as (Berbera, Bosaso, and Kismayo) and hosts a number of the largest Gulf companies investing in the oil and gas sector. This is not limited only to Gulf Countries, but also involves Ankara which has huge investments in Somalia promoted by effective diplomatic activity. Gulf Countries and Turkey can cooperate in this field for the good interest of both and for enhancing stability in Somalia to achieve sustainable development.
I see that GCC countries should work more efficiently to boost Gulf-Somali relations and intervene directly to reduce tensions between Somalia and its neighbors. This can only be accomplished through careful investigation of events and incidents that have been taking place in Somalia since 1991 in order to better appreciate the situation.
As for Ethiopia, the Moroccan delegation’s visit in November of this year to Addis Ababa (seat of the African Union), which announced its full support to Morocco to regain AU membership after more than three decades of break off may motivate Rabat to convince Addis Ababa to withdraw its recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic (Polisario). To that end, Morocco will firstly rely on Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia, the State of Qatar and UAE, the biggest partner investor in Ethiopia and the most prominent supporter of the right of Rabat in Western Sahara. Secondly, Rabat maintains good diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, the foremost power supporting the ruling Ethiopian regime; consequently, Morocco could make use of these ties to realize its demands.
No doubt The Kingdom of Morocco is quite aware that Ethiopia is among the most influential African powers in the future of the continent. Thus, withdrawal of Addis Ababa’s recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic (Polisario) will heighten Gulf countries support to Ethiopia on the one hand, and may encourage major African powers such as Nigeria and South Africa to withdraw recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic, though I absolutely believe that African peoples strongly adhere to national liberation issues many societies cannot well appreciate.
What disturbs me as an Arab citizen in the first place and a Gulf in the second is that contradictory political visions among Gulf countries, some Arab countries and some regional powers may turn the Horn of Africa countries to a field for settling scores that will affect all parties. Gulf countries will have to unify their political and economic visions, act as one mass, get ready for the next stage and invest in the Afro-Gulf relations often encumbered by disaccord every time it starts to take the right course.