Saturday, July 21, 2018
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Ethiopia’s new Perestroika & Somalia: It is better to err on the side of caution!

By Rashed Gulaid

The Somali Government should exercise due diligence and caution as it forges new relationship with the New Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The new Prime Minister of Ethiopia is trying to consolidate his power and it is in his political interest to entertain grand and noble pan Africanist ideas that may appeal to the Somali people. But, the Somali government ought to be very careful and be mindful of the substances of his grand appeals and overtures.

PM Abiy Ahmed

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has provided guarantees to Egypt regarding the sharing of the Nile water. He has returned disputed land of Badme to Eritrea in exchange for normalized relations. He has even provided comfort to his political nemesis inside Ethiopia by implicitly alluding that his government has secured agreements with Somalia to invest ports along the Somali Coast line (an apparent wink wink from the PM that he will continue Ethiopia’s expansionist policies toward Somalia).

The Prime Ministers recent declaration that Ethiopia is building a navy can also be construed as a message to the opposition that the strategic Ethiopian ambition to secure gateway into the Somalia’s coastline is still a go. Now, Let us see what the prime Minister has offered to the Somali Government:

1) Ethiopia will invest Somali Ports although Ethiopia is financially broke. How is this great for Somalia? Nobody knows. Somalis could find investment elsewhere and Ethiopia will still benefit the use of the Somali ports.

2) Ethiopia will respect Somalia’s territorial integrity (a vague and standard platitude uttered between sovereign nations). No action to back up the prime ministers assertions and all the while maintaining illegal military presence inside Somalia.

3) Ethiopia will open consulate in every major city in Somalia.

The question that begs an answer is why this proposal is a priority for Somalia?

Other than the standard diplomatic statement regarding the respect for Somalia’s territorial integrity, the above-listed proposals do not provide a ground breaking shift from the status quo. On the contrary, the proposals seem to outline a new design in furthering Ethiopia’s grand vision to leverage the resources in Somalia for its own economic growth and development.  To make matters even worst, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, upon his return to Addis Ababa gave an interview to the media in which he proclaimed that Ethiopia and Somalia may become one country sometime in the future.

Most Somalis believe that the Prime Minister’s Unity utterance provides further proof to the Wary Public that he may be another Wolf in a sheep’s clothing and underneath his seemingly idealistic and progressive proclamations lays a hidden grand Ethiopian agenda to absorb more Somali territories under guise of economic collaboration.

Since the Somali Government has not offered strategic goals of its own, it is fair to assume that they have decided to work within the frame works of the Ethiopia’ strategic Planning. The Ethiopian vision and strategic plans benefits Ethiopia. No country in the world designs a strategic plan that benefits others, so, it is naïve to assume that the Ethiopian Strategic vision will benefit both countries equitably as declared by the Somali Government authorities.

Furthermore, it has been said that “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes”. Many Somalis who observe Ethiopian politics have confirmed the similarity between the Tigray led government at its infancy and the current Abiy Ahmed government for their willingness to use soft power to charm and disarm their opponents. The early Tigray led government has instituted cosmetic changes to buy time to consolidate power. The Tigray led Government allowed Ethiopian regional governments to use their native languages for schools and for transacting business.

The Tigray led government have even entertained the idea that the Somali Region could secede and Join greater Somalia if they so wish. However, once the Tigray led government  have consolidated power, they started not only to recolonize Western Somalia (Ogaden region) but they have expanded their hegemony to the Somalia Republic and created Viceroys of the likes of Gabre to maintain perpetual instability and mayhem in all of the Somali Territories. There is a quote that says “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. The Somali people have been fooled one too many times and they should demand substantive concessions from Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister Similar to those given to Eritrea and Egypt. Finally, Somalis should err on the side of caution when it comes to forging relationships with Ethiopia.

Rashed Gulaid

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