Dishonest Broker – Why Turkey Will Not Run Somaliland – Somalia Talks

 February, 2019 

On December 28, 2018, Turkey named its former Ambassador to Somalia Dr. Olgan Bekar as a Special Envoy for Somalia and Somaliland Talks. Thought the former Ambassador to Somalia has had limited contact with the Government of Somaliland especially President Bihi’s current administration, he known to be very comfortable in navigating the political scene in Mogadishu.

In this report, we are examining Turkey’s history in Somaliland and Somalia and their role as mediators in the past talks.

Dr. Olgan Bekar, Turkey’s Special Envoy for Somaliland – Somalia with President Muse Bihi Abdi

Turkey is not the only country interested to have Somaliland and Somalia get back to the negotiating table and reach some sort of a settlement.

The topic has come up during President Muse Bihi Abdi’s meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister in Addis Ababa this week though it is unclear the extent to which they discussed the subject or if any concrete steps to get the two sides talking were agreed upon.

Somaliland and Ethiopian leaders meeting in Addis Ababa

It is important to understand that various stake holders have different expected outcomes of such talks and Somaliland might be the odd man out as it seeks to gain an amicable completion of its divorce from Somalia.

According to statement from Somaliland Presidency following President Bihi’s meeting with the new envoy Dr. Bekar on February 9, The President informed Dr. Bekar and the Turkish delegation that since past talks has not yielded any results all future dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia must include the international community.

Sources from Somaliland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation present in the meeting with the President and the Turkish delegation stated that President Bihi also informed the Turkish envoy that bringing a level of balance in how Turkey invests in Somalia and Somaliland is a good way to show Somaliland that Turkey is impartial and a friend to Somaliland.

To understand if Turkey can be an impartial and an honest broker on Somaliland and Somalia talks and its general standing in the world community, we have spoken to Mr. Michael Rubin who is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he researches Arab politics, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, Iraq, the Kurds, terrorism, and Turkey.

President Bihi with Michael Rubin and Presidential Economic Advisor Dr. Osman Sh Ahmed

Somaliland Chronicle: Do you think it is wise for Somaliland to accept Turkey as a mediator in Somalia talks given the Turkish Gov support and massive investment in Somalia?

Mr. Rubin: Turkey does not have a track-record as an honest broker, and President Erdoğan has an ideological agenda which does not value Somaliland’s democracy and security. It is crucial to broaden any such mediation beyond a single country.

Somaliland Chronicle: In your latest article you wrote about Turkish support for terrorism and specifically for Al-Shabaab. What is Turkey’s reasoning for supporting Al-Shabaab?

Mr. Rubin: There is no single international definition of terrorism, and so Turkey often says it is combating terrorism, but denies groups like Al-Shabaab in Somalia or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali are terrorists. Erdoğan’s goal is a more Islamist order. His fault, though, is confusing some Islamist movements with Islam itself.

Somaliland Chronicle: President Bihi recently met with a Turkish Envoy in charge of the Somaliland/Somalia talks, do you see any value in having Turkey to mediate or be part of those talks?

Mr. Rubin: Certainly, there is value in consultation with Turkey, as Turkey retains a diplomatic presence in both Somalia and Somaliland. President Bihi is correct, however, to seek a broader mediation rather than reliance on a single country.

As President Bihi informed the Turkish delegation, there is an imbalance in how Turkey provides and and invests in Somaliland and Somalia. Let’s break down what Turkey so far done in is to Somalia:

Turkey in Somalia !!!▪️

Security Influence

Turkey is Somalia’s true patron state, one of its most expensive efforts is to rebuild the Somali National Army from scratch and in its own image.

The largest military force in Somalia is of course AMISOM but Turkey’s military presence dwarfs that of any individual country in the AMISOM troops stationed in Somalia. In fact, Turkey’s largest military installation outside of Turkey is in Mogadishu.

Dr. Olgan Bekar with Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Khaire.

The 1.5 square mile Turkish military training installation is capable of churning out 1,500 fully trained and equipped soldiers at a time. This is according to Turkish and Somali sources familiar with the facility.

Below is a tweet from Turkish Embassy in Somalia showing images of Somali military personnel being trained in Turkey.

While Turkey rates as the 18th largest military in expenditure globally, it has a fledgling arms industry and rebuilding the Somali National Army represents a lucrative opportunity to supply it with the equipment it is manufacturing.

According to a recent VOA report, in what seems to be a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council’s weapons embargo on Somalia, Turkey has been supplying armament to units of the Somali National Army it has been training.

Economic Influence

Since September 21, 2014 Albayrak Group has been operating the Mogadishu Port on a 20 year concession where the company takes 45% of all revenues from the port.

Public records show that Albayrak Group does not have a track record in managing world class ports, besides Mogadishu Port, it also manages and the Trabzon Port in the Black Sea on Turkey’s Northern border with Georgia.

Compared to Albayrak Group and the 2 ports it manages, DP World manages about 77 marine and inland terminals including Somaliland’s Berbera Port.

Other Turkish conglomerates such Enez-İnşaat and Kozuva Group are also active in Mogadishu.

Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle Airport has been managed by a Kozuva subsidiery, Favori Airports LLC,since September 2013.

Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle Airport

Here is the Somali Prime Minister Mr. Hassan Khaire thanking Qatar for funding road networks between Mogadishu, Afgoye and Jawhar and also thanking the Turkish Government, presumably Enez-İnşaat who according to him have “won” the contract to build said roads.

Turkey bills itself as Somalia’s rescuer and multiple visits by Erdoğan to Somalia especially in what is considered a relatively difficult time for the Somali people were designed to convey that exact message but economically, Turkey stands to gain more from Somalia and Mogadishu than it lets on.

Image result for erdogan visits mogadishu
Erdoğan and his wife in Mogadishu.

According to some estimates, the most profitable route in Turkish Airlines is the Mogadishu – Ankara route. And aside from the large visible projects, there are tens of thousands of Turkish citizens living and working in Mogadishu.

Despite the obvious economic gains Turkey is making in Somalia, it is gearing up to do even more business in that war-torn country.

Getting involved in one of the least stable country in the world, Turkey is employing the concept of first mover advantage. This means less competition from the Chinese and other actors vying for influence in Africa.

Turkey heavy bet on Somalia and specifically Mogadishu is yielding economic results for Turkey beyond what Erdoğan has expected. In fact, Turkey’s largest embassy in the world is not where you would expect, like Washington DC, Brussels or Berlin, it is in Mogadishu, Somalia.

One of the most attractive features of Turkey’s patronage of Somalia is it is non-interference posture in Somalia’s domestic politics. It is worth nothing that Somalia ranked lowest in global corruption index and any country that is willing to look the other way is a welcome reprieve from the usual admonishment for President Farmajo’s weak administration.

Turkey in Somaliland

The most visible contribution of Turkey to Somaliland is a recent 216 medical machines donated by TIKA, the Turkish aid agency to Hargeisa Group Hospital.

Although this particular instance has been widely publicized by TIKA, Somaliland Chronicle has been unable to locate anything of note done in Somaliland either by Turkish Government or it is aid agency TIKA.

There are, however, multiple unfulfilled pledges by the Turkish Government in the past to help build roads in Somaliland according to multiple former and current Somaliland Government officials. None of these pledges have materialized.

One thing of note is that Turkey has been particularly adept in dangling a carrot of aid and development or simply inviting them to Istanbul on a whirlwind of meetings and tours to get them to buy into the importance of Somaliland and Somalia talks.

No other country has put so much effort to try to mediate Somaliland and Somalia as much as Turkey. In fact, this might be the only thing Turkey has done in Somaliland. There were many rounds of talks that hosted by the Turks in the past and personally supervised by President Erdoğan himself, unfortunately, these talks have been a disaster for Somaliland.

Turkey’s obsession with Somaliland is rooted in the simple fact that the rift between Gulf states of UAE and Saudi Arabia on one side and Qatar, Turkey and Iran on one side has been playing out in Somaliland and Somalia.

Image result for somaliland dpworld signing
President of Somaliland HE Muse Bihi Abdi and DP World CEO Mr. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem

The United Arab Emirates base in Berbera and DP World managing the Port gives the UAE and its ally Saudi Arabia an advantage and a foothold in the strategic 850 kilometers of Red Sea coastline with a direct access to Bab Al-mandab.

Turkey and Qatar has been spending heavily in trying to unseat the Emirates from both the military base and the Berbera Port by mobilizing the Somali government to oppose these deals. Additionally, Turkey has been advancing particular talking points that have been seeping into public discourse in Somaliland such as the importance of Somaliland – Somalia talks, the ramifications of hosting a foreign army in Somaliland via the UAE base and the deterioration of service at the Berbera Port. These same exact talking points are parroted by many civil organizations and opposition parties in Somaliland.

Somaliland has repeatedly signaled it’s willingness to talk to Somalia but its demand for the international community including the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union to get involved and President Bihi’s impossible task for the Turks to raise their level of support for Somaliland to something comparable to Somalia’s almost guarantees that Turkey’s role will be a lot smaller in future dialogue between the two countries.

A Journey Through Somaliland: A compilation of my observations and experiences in East Africa 

 February 26, 2024 


Descending on Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport (MGQ) you’re immediately taken aback by the vastness of the Indian ocean. On the horizon stands the unmistakable silhouette of Ali Jimale, a Turkish style mosque and an obvious symbol of Turkish influence in the region. MGQ, itself a Turkish project, is a modern airport teeming with UN brandished aircraft. From UN Aid helicopters and private jets, it’s clear you’re in humanitarian mecca. 

Despite its challenges, the potential in Mogadishu is undeniable. Mogadishu is the second most populous coastal city in East Africa. The weather is humid but tempered with a cool coastal breeze. The greenery that surrounds the airport is a reminder that Africa is not the stereotype of a barren desert wilderness devoid of water and life. 

Despite the great potential for what could be the greatest city in east Africa given its location, climate, population, and natural beauty; Mogadishu is shackled by a decades-long history of corruption, violence, and insecurity. The insecurity is clearest in the over the top security precautions as we disembark from the plane and walk through several stages of security checks. The security personnel’s faces betray a subtle nervousness. There also seems to be a level of petty politics at play as we enter the airport international arrivals section only to walk to domestic travel one building over and return to the very same plane moments later. Why passengers would disembark only to come out a different door that reads ‘domestic travel’ seems like a tacit attempt to remind travelers that Hargeisa is domestic and that Somaliland is Somalia. Speculation aside, the airport is a modern one. I remember calling a friend who hails from the Mogadishu area, about the impressiveness of MGQ. This was in contrast to Hargeisa’s Egal International Airport (HGA). 


Here the airport is modest by comparison. The TV screens show ads for Ambassador Hotel, Dahabshiil’s EVC e-Dahab, and SO GASHO mobile. Below the ads are prompts reflecting the incompetence of whomever set up the ads with subtext captions. Messages that read “Final Version” “MP4 Cut” “This Version is not compatible…” cascade across the dusty and dated television screens throughout the airport. A small example of the overall shortcomings of an airport that has been the center of attention as Mogadishu and Hargeisa wrestle for control over Somaliland airspace. This latest saga follows Mogadishu’s recent attempts to politicize air traffic control in light of the Somaliland-Ethiopia MOU. In Hargeisa the climate is noticeably harsher. The climate bears significant resemblance to the people. Tough and unrelenting; traits Somalis have been known for in writings of Ibn Batuta and early British colonialists. Traits that have served us well in war and conquest but fail us today. In Japan a culture of excellence or “kaizen” has helped earn them a reputation for discipline, excellence, and duty. This could not be further from the case here. Minutes from HGA is the sight of littered plastic bags, water bottles, and of course farm animals competing for a share of the road. Goats, pedestrians and cars snake around one another in a choreographed dance everyone here is all too familiar with. This is not unique to Hargeisa, however. The same applies in places like Cairo and Karachi. I’m told by friends that the problem of garbage and congestion is especially pronounced in Mogadishu.

On first glance, Hargeisa-the capital of Somaliland, does not say Africa’s 55th state. “You judge too quickly”, I’m often reminded by friends. Many of my earliest impressions of people and places have been deeply misplaced, I would later discover. Somaliand would prove no exception. In the days and weeks since the underwhelming welcome I’ve come to appreciate the emphasis on function and substance over beauty. With a host of challenges facing the unrecognized country, captions on screens or goats on streets do not factor highly. Hargeisa in 1988 was reduced to rubble. The UN reported there was not a free standing structure in the city with most of its inhabitants displaced by carpet bombing from the Barre government. Thirty years later, high rises can be found across the city and many new buildings sprout up as men in green overalls scaffold the sides of buildings. Men in “Hargeisa Municipality” labeled overalls can be seen during the day excavating ground where water pipes are being laid, trees planted, and traffic lights installed. New roads are being paved and there is an energy for a new chapter in the city that many credit the young new mayor with a famous last name for. When I last visited Hargeisa in 2020 even the downtown had rocky gravel roads. Today, you can travel to every corner of the city on recently paved roads. These seemingly small projects make a city function. City services like street cleaners, infrastructure projects like Waheen market, and brand new government buildings to better serve the local population are a testament to the resilience of a people in an unrecognized country operating primarily on tax and port revenue. 

The new mayor and council have capitalized on their election victory on a wave of anti-tribalism support and have inspired in local residents a renewed appreciation for the role of government in improving their lives. While in Hargeisa, I discovered, the same goodwill does not extend to the Somaliland government overall. In many ways Somaliland operates like a nonprofit, using only what funds it can generate from services it can charge for and grants from NGOs. Without access to debt financing and foreign investment capital, many of its accomplishments are made more commendable. Still I am surprised to learn people, seemingly universally, dislike Somaliland president Musa Bihi. He is seen by many as divisive, dictatorial, and heavy-handed. People are especially enraged by his handling of the Las Anod crisis, current inter-Isaaq tribal tensions, and perhaps most surprisingly his deal with Ethiopia and the infamous MOU. People by and large oppose the MOU not on grounds some on Twitter would have you believe (i.e. imagined aspirations for unity with Somalia) but a fear that Ethiopia, with its much larger population will overtake the country. 


In the early days of my journey I had the opportunity to visit Borama. A place where a disproportionate number of my friends come from (you know who you are). Only an hour and half away from the capital it was an easy place to visit. Here, too, my preconceptions were challenged. On the road to Borama we find a well-paved highway as tree canopies line the road. When we pass Arabsiyo and Gabiley and reach the interpass between Tog Wajale and Borama something changes. If you go left to the Ethiopian border city you see the familiar well-paved road with its white and yellow markings. If you go right towards the road to Borama suddenly it gets a bit bumpier. The markings are gone and trees are few and far between. Worse yet as you enter the city road conditions worsen as we sway side to side navigating pot holes on a gravel path. I’m overcome with disappointment. How could this be? Both I and my friend suddenly find ourselves sympathetic to the Awdal state Cause making the rounds online. This too on further

inspection owes a simple explanation. The road we were traveling on was built by the UAE, it is a trade corridor from Ethiopia to Berbera. The road to Borama was built by the Somaliland government. These roads resemble the road to Burco and Ceerigaabo. In Hargeisa new roads have been a keystone and well celebrated accomplishment of the new mayor. Roads within cities are the purview of local governments. With new young mayors in Hargeisa, Burco,and Borama there is a lot to be hopeful for. 

On the topic of nationalism, it’s worth noting I use the various Somali bracelets as a proxy for gauging support for pro-Somaliland or pro-Somalia positions. In Hargeisa it was not strange to see sky-blue bracelets with white diamonds in neighborhoods and restaurants. It was even more common in Ceerigaabo where tensions are especially tense. In Borama there are no Somalia bracelets in sight. Arguably, and this is perhaps heretical to some ears, there are more Somaliland bracelets and flags than in Hargeisa. There is of course no replacement for real polls and qualitative studies but this is an unrecognized third world country with little capacity or desire on the part of the government or the private sector to explore. I do believe much of the brouhaha around Awdal state is a diaspora project encouraged and given new life by the Mogadishu government. For Samaaroon who left the region in the early 90s, amidst tensions with the SNM, they remain locked in time. For locals that trade and travel to Hargeisa, ship goods and cattle through Berbera, and conduct both business and politics in the country, Somalia has little on offer. State institutions collect taxes, regulate business, resolve disputes, and of course create and enforce laws set to ensure a stable business and political environment. 


I arrive in Ceerigaabo, the capital of the Sanaag region on a small propeller plane. I head straight to my hotel. In my Hargeisa hotel there is a sign that reads “la ma ogola siigaar iyo khaatka” (smoking and khat is prohibited). In Ceerigaabo, my hotel door reads “no smoking, no khat, no guns, no bombs, no weapons of any kind.” Here one local tells me everyone has two priorities: own a home and own a gun. He tells me every establishment and home is flush with guns of every size. It is no wonder the city hosts a large Somaliland military presence. Given the history of violence and potential for violence the ratio of soldier to citizen I would assume is unparalleled in the country. Ironically, it was because of this military presence in 2020 I became a Somaliland nationalist. On this go around it’s a reminder of the country’s failure. The tension between tribes is felt everywhere. Here in Ceerigaabo, Somalia or SSC wristbands can be seen competing with Somaliland bracelets in some parts of the city. Cars and doors have etched out or spray painted SSC on them. On one quiet afternoon as the city took its post dhur siesta, I ventured towards my aunt’s school minutes from my hotel. Given my poor sense of direction, I found myself lost and surrounded by houses that all resemble one another. In a weak attempt at speaking Somali, I ask a man roughly my age for directions. He steps away from his house towards me and asks if I’m local or from the diaspora. I tell him I’m from the latter. He admits to being one as well. He asks me about my tribe. “Are you Isaaq or Harti”, he says. From the framing of his question I know he is likely Warsangeeli. Were he Isaaq he would be more specific. ‘Isaaq’, is not what any Isaaq in Somaliland would identify as. I tell him I’m Isaaq and suddenly his face and demeanour shift. It’s as if I’m now looking at a different man. The look of curiosity fades to concern. His eyes darting left to right. “You need to leave this area”, he tells me. “This is Harti area and its not safe for you”, he goes on. “Let me escort you back”. I’m in disbelief. I’ve walked into the Somali equivalent of Compton’s Crips and Bloods. My friend listens to the interaction on the phone every bit as amazed by the interaction as I am. This was the first of many incidents that made it clear to me Somaliland (at least in its eastern provinces) has a tribal problem. This problem, however, I believe is rooted in poverty. In no city or region is poverty so visible. Slim men in ragged clothes, children with sunken cheeks begging, and shanty aluminum homes cannot be missed. 


The final days of my time in Somaliland, I visit Berbera. The coastal city and a focal point of dispute between Somalia and Somaliland in the recent past. A corollary issue of port access for Ethiopia’s navy is the latest controversy. Known for its major port, the largest in Somaliland and Somalia, Berbera is one of, if not, the largest economic drivers in Somaliland. Berbera’s young mayor (a two-time incumbent) is credited for making the city the cleanest and arguably most progressive in the country. Farm animals are banned within city limits, garbage bins are found on street corners, and there are even sidewalks! A simple amenity in most western cities but sorely missed in places like Cairo, Hargeisa, and car haven Houston! There is hardly any traffic here; it’s quiet. I can hear the breeze, the ocean, the cawing of the seagulls. The beach has elevated lifeguard stations to overlook swimmers. There are swings used by young men likely unaware of the swings intended users. I cannot get over the fact there are no goats gnawing at littered cardboard boxes or chewing khat left on the floor. No chickens. No cows. Just silence and empty streets. 

Addis Ababa 

It’s the end of my sojourn in Somaliland. I’m at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport (ADD) waiting to return to Canada. ADD is grand and rivals Pearson, Abu Hamad, and Changi in its modernism. Passengers pass by Ethiopian women brewing traditional coffee and burning incense as they stop at one upscale restaurant or another. I need to change my sim card and ask a woman at a mobile stand for help. Before helping she asks where I’m from. “Somaliland,” I say. She grins, gives me a high five, and states, “we’re new allies now.” The interaction leaves me confused. Allies against whom? In any case it’s time for my flight.

About the Author

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Mustafa Ali is a Somali Canadian based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is a Founder Liaison and Tech Lead at Edmonton Unlimited, and a former stakeholder relations manager for the premier of Alberta. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelors in Political Science, both from the University of Alberta.

Somalia’s Deal With Turkey Is Aimed at Ethiopia

 February 22, 2024 

Somalia announced yesterday it had signed a defense and economic cooperation deal with Turkey that reportedly includes maritime security support, authorizing Ankara to train and equip the Somali navy so it can better defend its territorial waters. The deal was signed earlier this month and will reportedly be in force for the next decade. (AP)

Our Take

The Somalia-Turkey agreement is just the latest development in the continued fallout from a deal signed on Jan. 1 between Ethiopia and Somaliland, that remains unrecognized internationally. That agreement grants Ethiopia, which is landlocked, access to some of Somaliland’s coastline and use of its port, potentially in exchange for diplomatic recognition of Somaliland.

Until this year, the Somaliland situation, while an irritant for Mogadishu, had largely been static. Somaliland had enjoyed de facto independence for decades without having made any progress on international recognition, while Somalia focused more attention on its war against the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab. Now, Ethiopia’s reported pledge to recognize Somaliland—notably at a time when quasi-states appear to have more leverage in the global order—has set off a cascade of regional effects, including some saber-rattling.

For its part, Somalia remains particularly suspicious of the potential role that the United Arab Emirates played in the Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement. That’s because the Horn of Africa has increasingly become an epicenter of geopolitical competition among Middle East powers. The UAE, in particular, has become a major player in the Horn and has previously facilitated ties between Ethiopia and Somaliland. So Somalia’s suspicion is not unfounded.

It makes sense, in this context, that Somalia would seek to strengthen its partnership with Turkey, which has become an increasingly close ally. Turkey already provides development aid and military training to Somalia, and in 2017 opened its largest overseas military base in Mogadishu.

With this new agreement, that partnership extends to Somalia’s territorial waters, potentially serving as a deterrent to Ethiopia’s use of Somaliland’s coastline. At the same time, however, the Turkey-Somalia deal is sure to escalate tensions in the region and further entangle the Horn in longstanding Middle East rivalries.

What the Ethiopia-Somaliland Deal Means for Washington’s Strategy in the Red Sea

 February 22, 2024 

Tensions from the Israel-Hamas war have spilled into the Red Sea. But while global leaders are focusing intently on everything happening in the waters of the Red Sea and to the north of it, they’ll also need to monitor geopolitical developments to the south—on the Horn of Africa.

Those developments are in the form of two significant agreements that Somaliland (an unrecognized republic in the north of Somalia that self-declared independence in 1991) struck with countries in the region. The developments could bring simmering conflicts to a boil or add significantly to regional instability in the Horn; on the other hand, they could potentially advance peace and prosperity in the region. The uncertainty about what will follow these agreements, even in the months after they were signed, is due cause for global leaders to monitor the situation closely.

A Communique with Somalia

The first agreement is a communique, which followed a meeting between Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Djibouti on December 28 last year. In the communique, the countries’ officials agreed to resume diplomatic discussions, implement previous agreements, resolve ongoing conflicts, and bolster cooperation on security and organized crime. 

While initially promising, the deal has raised tensions for civilians across the region. Some Somalilanders I spoke with saw the agreement—which referred to the breakaway territory as the “northern regions” instead of the “Republic of Somaliland”—as a threat to Somaliland’s perceived sovereignty. Having the agreement signed by Somaliland’s minister of the interior, Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, instead of the foreign minister further signaled that the agreement was being approached as an internal Somali affair rather than an agreement between two sovereign entities. On their end, some Somalis were displeased that the communique referred to Somaliland’s delegation as the Government of Somaliland (rather than the Somaliland administration).

Abdi’s term as president of Somaliland has also been marred by delayed elections, causing controversy and leading some to believe he has no mandate to make such decisions. Opposition parties such as the Somaliland National Party (Waddani) and the Justice and Welfare party (UCID) have capitalized on this, accusing the president of jeopardizing Somaliland’s sovereignty. Both Abdi and Mohamud returned to their cities under scrutiny.

The Somalia-Somaliland communiqué’s calling on both parties to resolve ongoing conflicts brings to mind conflict in the regions of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn, where a violent war over sovereignty has tarnished Abdi’s (and Somaliland’s) international reputation. Some civilians in these regions would prefer to not be governed by Somaliland, but rather become their own federal member state of Somalia—a real threat to Somaliland’s fight for independence and a humanitarian burden to both Somalia and Somaliland. Resolution of these internal conflicts would benefit both Somaliland and Somalia.

An MoU with Ethiopia

The second agreement is a memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed by Abdi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on January 2, granting Ethiopian naval forces access to twenty kilometers of Somaliland coastline for fifty years. In return, Abiy agreed that the Ethiopian government would engage in an “in-depth assessment” of Somaliland’s recognition. Somaliland also received a stake in Ethiopian Airlines.

Ethiopia has been eyeing sea access since Eritrea’s 1993 independence left Ethiopia without a coastline and reliant on Djibouti for port access. Abiy has repeatedly called Red Sea access an existential question for his country, worthy of holding talks with Eritrea; eventually, rumors that Ethiopia may invade Eritrea to secure port access spread, escalating regional tensions. Reestablishing a presence in the Red Sea with the MOU would not only benefit Ethiopian commercial interests, but also revive Abiy’s political legacy, which has been tainted by his handling of conflict in Tigray and the development of new crises in Amhara and Oromia.

Abdi returned from Addis Ababa to see thousands lining the streets, waving flags and expressing a patriotic fervor. If Ethiopia (an influential member of the African Union) were to recognize Somaliland, it could be a game-changer for the breakaway region, helping advance its quest to be recognized internationally, particularly as it faces pushback from Mogadishu. On the social platform X, some pro-Somaliland users prematurely celebrated Somaliland becoming the fifty-fifth state in Africa—despite it not having yet won any additional recognition globally. On January 7, Abdi convened a meeting of Somaliland’s political stakeholders to discuss the agreement, which a Somaliland official said showcased the president’s inclusive approach.

Despite these signs of support, things have not been entirely smooth sailing for Abdi. Protests occurred in the Somaliland city of Borama, where hundreds chanted “our sea is not for sale” in opposition to Ethiopian troops in their territory. Moreover, just days after the MOU was signed, the Somaliland minister of defense resigned in protest. This domestic Somaliland pushback challenges and complicates Abdi’s efforts to sell this deal as a complete victory for the Somaliland cause.

Somalia sees this agreement as a violation of its sovereignty and Mohamud has already signed a law nullifying the MOU. This largely symbolic move is Somalia’s way of asserting its jurisdiction over Somaliland; Somalia views Ethiopian efforts to establish a presence in Somaliland as an attempt to illegally infringe on its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Somalia and Ethiopia have fought devastating territorial wars in the past, and this decision also invokes the trauma within this fraught relationship. Many in Somalia have boycotted Ethiopian Airlines. Somalia even forced an Ethiopian Airlines flight (which was carrying Ethiopian officials bound for Somaliland) back to Addis Ababa. If this deal fully materializes, it could undo progress Mohamud has made to reintegrate Somalia into international institutions, sort out domestic tensions, and fight terrorist group Al-Shabaab: Somali officials suggested that al-Shabaab would take up arms following the MoU, with Al-Shabaab leaders swiftly issuing a call to defend Somalia’s territory.

The Global Response Begins to Take Shape

In the weeks since the signing of these agreements, Washington has seemingly stuck to its “one-Somalia” policy, with several statements by top US diplomats reiterating the United States’ support for Somalia’s territorial integrity. However, a US State Department official also said that the United States supported conversations between the people of Somalia and Somaliland about their shared future, leaving the door open for potential future support depending on the results of those conversations. This also comes on the heels of an informal softening of long-standing positions, as indicated by diplomatic visits to Somaliland, such as one by General Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command, in May 2022.

Beyond the Biden administration, US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN)—the first Somali-American to serve in Congress—gave a speech to Somali constituents largely in support of Somalia, invoking ire from both Republicans in Congress and Somalilanders with US ties

The United Kingdom, one of Somaliland’s closest Western partners, has also expressed deep concern over the MoU, encouraging restraint and acknowledging its support of Somalia’s territorial integrity. However, one member of parliament called for the United Kingdom to recognize Somaliland in light of these developments. 

The Arab League, led by Egypt (which has a complicated relationship with Ethiopia), has been steadfast in its support for Somalia. However, DP World, a Dubai-based developer that is already heavily invested in Berbera Port, has continued to express interest in developing the port alongside Ethiopia and Somaliland. This could be an indication that the United Arab Emirates could shift its policies vis-à-vis Somaliland and the Arab League. 

The African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have joined the international community’s call for restraint and reiterated their support for Somalia’s territorial integrity. However, Somalia rejected African Union mediation, arguing that there was no room for mediation until Ethiopia retracts the MoU and reaffirms Somalia’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, Ethiopia sat out a recent IGAD meeting that was set to address conflict in Sudan and—to a lesser extent—tensions between Ethiopian and Somalia over the MoU. Though the Ethiopian government claimed its absence was due to the meeting clashing with a “commitment to a prior engagement,” Abiy was still present at a nearby summit for the Non-Aligned Movement the next day, suggesting that he snubbed the IGAD meeting.

Despite global reactions, the MoU has persisted, and progress toward Ethiopian port access continues.

The risk of the escalation of tensions across this region—which includes Sudan, the site of calamitous security, political, and humanitarian crises—is rising. If these tensions are managed poorly, conflict could spread across the Horn of Africa and then potentially even spill into the Red Sea. However, if managed properly, the tensions could subside, making way for prosperity and economic growth.

The security interests of many countries—particularly the United States—are at stake. As tensions flare between the United States and Yemen-based Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, Washington may be looking for ways to expand its military presence in the region beyond its significant presence based in Djibouti. Over the past two years, the United States has reportedly expressed interest in using Somaliland’s Berbera port and airfield as a base for the purposes of countering Al-Shabaab. Though US visits to Berbera have been carefully coordinated with the Somalian government, this engagement could be interpreted as a major victory for Somaliland in bolstering its sovereignty. With Berbera, and an eagerness for international engagement, Somaliland could potentially help the United States gain a footing to protect vital maritime routes and diversify its regional footprint away from the already crowded military hub of Djibouti. However, since Somaliland remains unrecognized, the United States would first need to get Somalia’s approval—an arrangement that could be made easier by the cooperation outlined in the initial communique signed in Djibouti, although such easing could be jeopardized if tension around the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU continues to increase.

Moreover, armed conflict involving Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Somalia could complicate security cooperation agreements between Somalia and the United States in the fight against Al-Shabaab. This further emphasizes the importance of US leadership and diplomacy in ensuring this tension doesn’t escalate further.

The United States should use financial and diplomatic leverage to ensure that the governments of Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Somalia act cautiously in the coming weeks, while seeking to preserve US security interests in the Red Sea and Horn of Africa, specifically regarding Berbera and its counter-terrorism efforts.

The agreements seem contradictory: One calls for cooperation between Somalia and Somaliland, to some undermining Somaliland’s sovereignty, while the other outlines political and economic cooperation between Somaliland and Ethiopia, which to Somalia undermines its sovereignty. But the agreements are each rooted in promoting regional cooperation, negotiation, and partnership. In lending focus to this region, international actors must emphasize the strategic benefit that comes with cooperation. This must be the path forward, lest the world see more conflict in 2024.

Maxwell Webb is an independent Horn of Africa and Middle East analyst who currently serves as the coordinator of leadership initiatives at the Israel Policy Forum’s IPF Atid program.

The Somalia-Somaliland Airspace Dispute: A Historical Overview and the Path Forward

 February 19, 2024 


The longstanding and complex airspace dispute between Somalia and Somaliland has been marked by a series of broken agreements, escalating tensions, and growing concerns over regional security and aviation safety. This article explores the historical background of the United Nations-mediated agreements, examines Somalia’s subsequent deviation from these agreements, analyzes recent incidents that have further intensified the dispute, and discusses the implications for the safety and management of the airspace in the region.

Historical Background

The origins of the airspace dispute date back to the early 1990s, when Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia following the collapse of the Somali government in 1991. The resulting state of lawlessness, with various factions vying for control, raised concerns over the safety and security of the airspace. In response, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, assumed responsibility for managing the airspace. Due to the security concerns within Somalia, the ICAO initially based its operations in Nairobi, Kenya.

Since 1993, the UN program tasked with these duties has been the Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority for Somalia (CACAS), which operates out of Nairobi. For over 27 years, the ICAO has had overall responsibility for the skies over the country, processing civilian aircraft movements and overflights in the Horn of Africa without any dispute. This period of stability stands in stark contrast to the recent developments since Mogadishu took control a few years ago. In this short span, Somalia has already violated agreements, casting doubt on its ability to manage this vital aspect of regional security responsibly.

Somalia’s Departure from Agreements

In an effort to establish a cooperative framework for airspace management, the ICAO facilitated negotiations between Somalia and Somaliland. Since 2012, there have been several meetings and talks between the two parties, including the Istanbul II Communiqué in June 2013, where they concurred on establishing the Air Traffic Control Board (headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland) and a four-member technical committee (two from Somaliland and two from Somalia). The pact received support from the United Nations envoy in Somalia/Somaliland and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia at the time, Nicholas Kay, who described it as a model for other areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

The accord was hailed as a significant step towards collaborative management and was expected to pave the way for a sustainable resolution to the dispute. However, it began to unravel as Somalia reneged on its commitments, opting for unilateral control of the airspace. Somalia’s move was perceived by Somaliland as a breach of the Istanbul II Communiqué and a violation of all the agreed-upon terms, further infringing on its autonomy.

The situation was further complicated by Somalia’s unilateral actions, such as the revocation of previously issued flight permissions and the imposition of new regulations without consultation with Somaliland. This has led to increased tensions between the two entities and has raised concerns about the safety and security of the airspace in the region.

Somaliland’s President Muse Bihi has publicly criticized Somalia’s failure to uphold its commitments under the accord, particularly regarding the distribution of international aid and educational grants. The Somaliland Civil Aviation and Airports Authority (SL-CAAA) has accused successive Mogadishu governments of failing to honor agreements on air traffic management, leading to Somalia’s unilateral control over the Air Traffic Management Authority since 2018.

Latest Dispute and Recent Incidents

The recent incidents in the airspace dispute between Somalia and Somaliland have exacerbated tensions and raised concerns about the politicization of airspace management, often referred to as “air piracy.” This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘air piracy,’ involves the use of airspace control for political leverage or as a means of exerting pressure, akin to how piracy at sea is used to control maritime routes.

Increased Tensions

The dispute has seen a series of incidents that have further strained relations between the two entities. A notable event occurred on January 17, 2024, when an unscheduled Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying senior Ethiopian officials to Somaliland was denied entry into Somali airspace and forced to return to Addis Ababa. This incident underscored the operational rifts and the politicization of the airspace.

Further tensions arose with allegations of the Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) obstructing an air ambulance from entering Somali airspace en route to Hargeisa. Although the SCAA refuted these claims, stating that the aircraft lacked the necessary permits, the incident highlighted the human cost of the ongoing dispute.

Moreover, a recent incident involving Qatar Airways highlighted the complexities of airspace management in the region. The airline received contradictory instructions from air traffic controllers in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, leading to formal safety complaints. This incident underscores the challenges of securing the airspace amidst the ongoing dispute between Somalia and Somaliland and raises serious doubts about Somalia’s ability to manage air traffic safety and navigation effectively.

Politicization of Airspace

Somalia’s actions are perceived as using airspace management as a political tool. By denying flights and imposing unilateral regulations, Somalia is seen as leveraging its control over the airspace to assert its authority over Somaliland and to influence regional dynamics. This approach is akin to “air piracy,” where airspace control is weaponized for political ends, undermining the principles of international cooperation and aviation safety.

The use of airspace as a political tool not only exacerbates tensions between Somalia and Somaliland but also poses a threat to regional stability and aviation safety. It underscores the need for a resolution that respects the sovereignty of both entities and ensures the safe and efficient management of the airspace.

Implications of Weaponizing Air Traffic Control

If airspace management continues to be used as a political weapon, it could lead to the shutdown of air traffic in the region. This would have serious implications for civil aviation, including disruptions to commercial flights, humanitarian aid, and medical evacuations. It would also have economic repercussions, as the loss of overflight fees and the rerouting of flights would impact both Somalia and Somaliland. Failure to address this issue could have dire consequences for aviation security, regional stability, and economic well-being in the Horn of Africa.

Moreover, this threat could indicate that Somalia’s airspace is an unsafe conflict zone, and thousands of commercial flights that currently use the airspace could be rerouted. This rerouting would result in the loss of overfly revenues and may give reason for ICAO and FISS to step in and manage Somali airspace for as long as possible. The political exploitation of airspace control by Mogadishu has led to a situation where there is no win-win outcome. If the dispute continues, the airspace may be shut down, which would have dire consequences for civilian airlines and humanitarian operations.

The Threat of Airspace Control by Al-Shabab

The recent deadly attack by the al-Qaida-linked militant group Al-Shabab, resulting in the deaths of four Emirati troops and a Bahraini military officer, underscores the ongoing instability and unpredictability in Somalia. The assault, carried out by a Somali federal soldier recruited by Al-Shabab, breached the highly secure General Gordon Military Base, leading to the loss of nine military personnel. This incident effectively highlights Al-Shabab’s ability to infiltrate security systems.

Moreover, the airspace dispute between Somalia and Somaliland has far-reaching implications for regional security. The potential for Al-Shabab to exploit this dispute and gain control over the airspace is alarming, considering the group’s history of exploiting governmental vulnerabilities and ambitions to expand its influence.

The recent attack emphasizes Somalia’s ongoing instability. Al-Shabab’s capacity to infiltrate secure areas raises concerns about regional security, particularly in light of the ongoing airspace dispute between Somalia and Somaliland. This dispute could provide Al-Shabab with opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities and expand its influence. Urgent attention from national and international actors is essential to address this risk and ensure the safety and security of the region’s airspace through a unified management system.

The Way Forward: ICAO Intervention and International Mediation

Given the escalating tensions and potential risks to civil aviation safety, there is a pressing need for the re-engagement of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in managing the airspace. The ICAO’s expertise and neutrality could provide a framework for resolving the dispute, ensuring compliance with international aviation standards, and restoring confidence in the safety and security of the airspace over Somaliland and Somalia. The involvement of ICAO is not only crucial for technical reasons but also for its potential to act as an impartial mediator in a politically charged conflict.


The ongoing airspace dispute between Somalia and Somaliland is a multifaceted issue that involves historical agreements, sovereignty claims, and regional geopolitics. It transcends mere technicalities of air traffic control to touch upon deeper issues of national identity, territorial integrity, and regional power dynamics. As such, it demands the immediate attention of the international community, particularly the United Nations.

The potential for the airspace to fall into the hands of extremist groups like Al-Shabab is a grave concern that underscores the urgency of the situation. The security implications of such a scenario would be far-reaching, not only for Somalia and Somaliland but for the entire Horn of Africa region.

Therefore, a resolution that respects the interests and sovereignty of all parties involved is crucial for the stability and security of the Horn of Africa. This requires careful negotiation and dialogue, underpinned by a genuine commitment to regional cooperation and peace. By reaffirming and implementing historical agreements, engaging in constructive dialogue, and building the necessary legal and institutional frameworks, Somaliland and Somalia can overcome current challenges. This approach not only ensures the safe and efficient management of the airspace but also contributes to broader regional stability and economic development, benefiting all Somali citizens.

About the Author:

Khalif Nur is a writer and analyst with a keen interest in East African politics, particularly the dynamics between Somalia and Somaliland. With a background in banking and social science.

Noor’s work focuses on regional stability, governance, and conflict resolution. Noor’s insights have been featured in various publications, shedding light on the complexities of statehood and sovereignty in the Horn of Africa.

Aviation Official Found Dead in Mogadishu Greenzone Amidst Somalia-Somaliland Tensions, Foul Play Suspected

 February 19, 2024

In a dramatic escalation of tensions between Somalia and Somaliland, Abdinasir Muse Dahable, a high-ranking official from Somalia’s civil aviation authority, was found dead today at his residence within the heavily fortified Greenzone of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde Airport.

Dahable’s colleagues raised concerns after failing to reach him, leading to the discovery of his body under suspicious circumstances. Although no official statement has been issued by Somali authorities on Mr. Dahable’s death, initial reports indicate foul play.

This tragedy unfolds against a backdrop of simmering conflict over airspace control. Somalia’s recent denials of landing rights, including for an emergency medical flight, sparked outrage in Somaliland, which responded by declaring independent airspace management, defying Mogadishu’s claim of sole control.

The proposed establishment of an Ethiopian naval base in Somaliland, a key component of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Somaliland, has drawn vehement criticism from the Somali President. Characterizing it as an ‘existential threat,’ he has intensified his rhetoric, echoing tones reminiscent of jihad. While President Hassan Sh Mohamoud has refrained from specifying any concrete actions against Somaliland and Ethiopia, his references to the 1977 war between Ethiopia and Somalia and the disputed border between the two nations evoke memories of historical tensions. Meanwhile, numerous prominent Somali politicians have openly advocated for violence against both Ethiopia and Somaliland.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who recently faced criticism for his behavior at the African Union Head of State meeting, asserts that the Memorandum of Understanding contributes to the recruitment efforts of Al-Shabaab. He alleges that intelligence reports indicate a surge of over 8,000 new recruits within the initial month.

It remains unclear if Mr. Dahable’s tragic death is linked to the violent rhetoric from some Somali figures calling for “Jihad” against Somaliland and Ethiopia. While any direct link between Dahable’s untimely passing and the airspace dispute is unconfirmed, it adds a tragic layer to an already volatile situation. Dahable, originally from Somaliland, was trained by ICAO and was a recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship.

Normalise Somaliland’s Recognition

 February 17, 2024 

Since its liberation in 1991 after a brutal struggle, Somaliland has showcased remarkable self-reliance, democracy, and peace in a region typically marked by turmoil. Its unique history lays a solid foundation for its legally uninterrupted independence, offering a beacon of hope in the Horn of Africa. This region is in desperate need of a role model, and the question arises: while not perfect, why does the world deny it when such a role model has been stable for over three decades?

Often, the US State Department views the failed state of Somalia as the only contrast to Al-Shabab and not Somaliland. The fight against Al-Shabab remains a critical concern for global security and, therefore, should responsibly place Somaliland in a strategic position as an unwavering ally. Formal recognition of Somaliland is a strategic necessity that can bolster efforts to combat terrorism by backing two horses against Al-Shabab instead of just one. The international community’s hesitation, mischaracterising the Somaliland case as a secession, overlooks the reality that its governance model, as a rare Muslim democracy, has already served as a deterrent against extremism.

The apparent oversight of the United States towards Somaliland’s situation has been starkly highlighted by its response to Ethiopia’s impending recognition of Somaliland. Senior US officials have voiced concerns about the potential impact on the ongoing struggle against Al-Shabab. However, there’s an alternative perspective to consider:

The progression of the accord between Somaliland and Ethiopia continues unabated. Hence, adopting a prudent strategy to normalise Somaliland’s recognition becomes imperative. This approach not only prevents Ethiopia from being isolated but also safeguards the Ethiopia-Somalia relationship from deteriorating to a level that could adversely affect the concerted efforts against Al-Shabab on both fronts.

Moreover, the ethnonationalism seen in Somalia, now even echoed by figures like Ilhan Omar, contrasts starkly with the inclusive, democratic ethos of Somaliland. Besides terrorism, Somalia grapples with clan-based politics and identity-driven conflicts, whereas Somaliland has emerged as a model of stability and governance with its constitution that forbids clan-based parties or regions. This divergence is critical, emphasising the need for recognising Somaliland to honour its democratic achievements and offer a counter-narrative to the divisive tribalism and ethnonationalism fuelling conflicts in Somalia and beyond.

To add insult to injury, the US State Department continues to spend billions on the Somalian government, even though the collapse of Afghanistan serves as a grim reminder of the consequences of favouring fake and weak governments over accountable allies. Mogadishu, with its fragile political landscape, faces the risk of a similar fate to Kabul if the world fails to act. By embracing Somaliland, the world can foster a beacon of stability in the region, setting a precedent for governance that upholds the principles of resilience and democratic integrity.

In an era where religious and ethnonational extremism looms large, Somaliland stands as a testament to the achievements possible through perseverance and a commitment to democratic values. As Somaliland continues to lead by example, it’s time for the international community to follow Ethiopia’s lead.

Somaliland Asserts Sovereign Right Over Airspace – Advances in Civil Aviation Framework

 February 17, 2024

Based on the Somaliland Civil Aviation Authority Law (Law No. 70/2017) dated December 26,
2017, the Republic of Somaliland reaffirms its unwavering commitment to aviation sovereignty
with the enactment of the emphasizing its inherent right to independently manage its airspace.
Below are a few key points related to this topic:

  1. Historical Evolution:
  • Since Somaliland reclaimed its independence, in 1991, Somaliland strategically
    focused on rebuilding its civil aviation infrastructure, aligning with international
  • Notable progress in modernizing airports, particularly in Hargeisa and Berbera,
    reflects Somaliland’s dedication to self-sufficiency and international compliance.
  1. Legal Modernization:
  • The Somaliland Civil Aviation Authority Law establishes robust control of the
    nation’s airspace, empowering the newly formed authority with comprehensive
    functions and responsibilities.
  • Covering strategy, policy, offenses, passenger protection, and emergency
    services, the law boldly asserts Somaliland’s sovereign right to independently
    regulate its civil aviation activities in line with International Civil Aviation
    Organization (ICAO) standards.
  1. International Commitments:
  • Somaliland, resolute in its autonomy, has issued resolutions emphasizing swift
    compliance with ICAO standards and industry best practices.
  • Presidential Decree No. 0223/042012 underscores Somaliland’s objective to
    independently align with global aviation norms, reinforcing its right to self-
  1. Ongoing Challenges:
  • Despite challenges and unilateral actions by the Somali Federal Government,
    Somaliland remains committed to diplomatic talks for collaborative solutions to
    airspace management issues.
  • Ongoing discussions highlight Somaliland’s persistence in asserting its sovereign
    right to manage its airspace accordingly.
    Conclusion: Somaliland’s enactment of the robust legal framework underscores not only its
    commitment to international aviation standards but also its inherent right to autonomously
    manage its airspace. The ongoing challenges further emphasize the importance of diplomatic
    dialogue for resolving airspace management issues and

Somaliland Strategic Advisory Group (SL-SAG)
Email: [email protected] Website: Tell: (703) 775-0177

Italy, please don’t listen to him. Africa has already expressed itself different

 February 9, 2024 

Dr. Jama Musse Jama

In a recent interview, the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, expressed with some nostalgia the memory of the brotherhood that once linked the Italian fascist colonizers of the Mussolini era to the African people. He spoke of a people-to-people relationship, inviting the “owners” of the arable lands and plantations, without reflecting on the period when the plantations between the two rivers in the Horn of Africa were unjustly taken from the indigenous owners and cultivated by the Italian colonialists. The latter exploited and dehumanized indigenous workers, forcing them to perform arduous and inhumane work. When has a certain brotherhood ever materialized?

He should be ashamed of himself for making such a request. As an African, he should reflect on his words and their consequences. Before speaking, it would be appropriate for him to find out more. Fortunately, today’s Italians, like many other peoples in the contemporary world, have developed a critical awareness and have dissociated themselves from the crimes committed in the past. Similarly, Africans today, along with all those who have suffered historical injustices, have worked to overcome the painful past by writing about and condemning colonialism as a crime against humanity.

I want to communicate a thought derived from my dual identity as an Italian and an African to today’s Italians.

Dear Italians, I urge you not to return to the plantations. If Italy were to return, let it be to support projects such as that of the National University, one of the most significant in the field of authentic, equal, and beneficial interpersonal relationships for both peoples, which had already started in the 1980s. This is the type of collaboration that should characterize an eventual return.

Returning to recover the land is unnecessary, as it was obtained illegally. There is no refund for properties obtained unlawfully during the fascist period nor for industries such as that of the Duke of Abruzzi, for which restitution is impossible. If Italy were to return, it should do so to compensate for what was wrongly perpetrated in that period.

As regards the “Messenger,” who acts as an exclusive representative of himself, I highly recommend reading works such as “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon (1967) and “Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression” by Hussein Bulhan (1985). Furthermore, it might be useful to explore texts such as Hegel’s “The Phenomenology of Mind” (1966), Mannoni’s “Prospero and Caliban: the Psychology of Colonialism” (1968), and Orlando’s “Slavery and Social Death”. (1982).

I hope this enlightens him not to distort the message, aware as an African of the horror in the words accompanying his outbursts. I am not the spokesperson for the people of Somalia, since they are capable of expressing themselves independently. However, I find myself speaking as an African and a Somalilander, who would like to convey profound disgust at the words uttered by those declaring being in the role of leader of a nation.


Dr Jama Musse Jama has a PhD in Computational Linguistics, and has extensive research publications in mathematics, ICT and the role of art and culture in development. Founder of the Hargeysa International Book Fair, and currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama has also a Senior Research Associate position at DPU, University College London, UK. Dr. Jama can be reached @JamaMusse or email: jama[@]

Somali Irredentism: Threat to the Security of Kenya and Ethiopia

 February 2, 2024 

African borders are a complex tapestry reflecting a rich mosaic of ethnic groups and cultures that spans multiple nations.

Beneath that patchwork, there is a smoldering issue of Ethno-nationalism which is too visible in Somalia in relation to its neighbors.

As a result of the recent geopolitical development, Kenya and Ethiopia find themselves at a particular juncture where dealing with Somalia expansionism has become a critical issue to preserve their territorial integrity as well as regional stability and peaceful coexistence.

Across the continent, many ethnic groups straddle borders that separate between African nations while their identities transcend the borderlines.

Borana in Ethiopia, for instance, extend all the way across the Kenyan border, while Afar in Djibouti share blood ties with their brothers in Ethiopia. The Maasai people too, live in both Kenya and Tanzania. This is a true emblematic of the complex ethnic landscape of the continent.

In 1964, African heads of states convened in Cairo and made a solemn pledge to respect the borders that existed on their achievement of national independence. This resolution, borne out of the need for harmony among African nations, aimed to prevent border conflicts caused by ethnic affiliations. Yet, Somali Irredentism poses a serious threat to this framework of border stability.

Entrenched in the principle of inherited ownership over all territories Somalis inhabit in East Africa, Somalia has historically disputed the borders of its neighboring countries.

In the 1960s, insurgencies were ignited in Kenya and Ethiopia, with Somalia asserting claims over Somali-inhabited regions and later on in 1977, Somalia directly waged war on Ethiopia in an attempt to seize the Somali region of Ethiopia by force.

Despite African Union’s principle to respect colonial borders, Somalia elites never cease to advocate for the regaining of these perceived ‘missing territories’.

President Hassan Sheikh who recently addressed the public in protest of the MoU between the Republic of Somaliland and Ethiopia underscored this sentiment and openly declared that there are territories Somalia is supposed to reclaim (implying the Somali regions of Ethiopia and Kenya). He described Ethiopia as a traditional enemy to Somalia.

In a similar vein, Somalia-born US lawmaker Ilhan Omar has stated that her country of origin Somalia will one day search for its missing lands.

In late 2006, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, head the committee of the Islamic courts Union (ICU) that then controlled much of Somalia, declared, “We will leave no stone un-turned to integrate our Somali brothers in Kenya and Ethiopia and restore their freedom to live with their ancestors in Somalia.”

Moreover, on January 3 this year, the Somali Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation released on its official twitter account a poster featuring a map of a previously unrealized Greater Somalia, with the Somali flag drawn over all Somali inhabited areas, including parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, although it was deleted later on.

To mitigate Somali Irredentism, official recognition of the Republic of Somaliland as a sovereign and independent nation emerges as pivotal solution which could end the dream of uniting all ethnic Somalis under the Somalia administration and also upholds the African union’s pledge to respect existing borders at the time of independence as articulated in the 1964 AU declaration.

Such recognition not only realizes Somaliland’s long over-due dream of recognition, but also serves as a deterrent against further Ethnonationalism ambitions to disrupt the colonial borders agreed by the AU.

In light of the recent MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland, Ethiopia is set to become the first country to officially recognize the Republic of Somaliland as a sovereign nation, setting a precedent for regional stability.

Kenya, with its Somali-inhabited regions, faces similar imperative to protect its territorial integrity against Somalia’s ethnic expansionism and to prevent future border disputes, Kenya must uphold the AU 1964 declaration of adhering colonial borders and support the recognition of Somaliland.

The issue of Somalia Irredentism surpasses national boundaries, threatening the stability of the region. Kenya and Ethiopia, as key players in East Africa, must take proactive steps to address this challenge, recognize Somaliland and defend the sanctity of existing borders at the time of independence. 

The recognition of Somaliland serves not merely as a diplomatic gesture but as a strategic step for safeguarding the security and prosperity of East Africa. The time for action is now, as Kenya and Ethiopia chart a course towards a future defined by stability and mutual respect among nations in East Africa.

Ismail Shirwac is a diplomat based in Nairobi currently serving as the First Secretary of the Republic of Somaliland mission in Kenya

Controversial Ilhan Omar Asserts Dominance Over U.S. Policy in Somaliland-Ethiopian Memorandum of Understanding

 January 28, 2024 

In a charged address at a Minneapolis hotel, Representative Ilhan Omar claimed an unprecedented influence over U.S. policy regarding the Somaliland-Ethiopian Naval Base Agreement. Omar, facing increased scrutiny due to her recent removal from the Congressional Foreign Relations Committee, stirred further controversy by referring to Somalilanders as “Somali imposters” These blatantly racist remarks, delivered with fervent nationalism, have prompted concerns about her suitability in handling international matters.

During her speech, Representative Omar boldly stated, “The United States Government will do what I tell them to do about it,” referring to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The context of her removal from the Foreign Relations Committee adds an extra layer of concern, with critics questioning whether her statements are fueled by unchecked nationalism rather than a nuanced understanding of international relations.

Omar’s passionate plea for confidence in the Somali diaspora in the U.S. took on a distinct nationalistic tone. Emphasizing, “It’s the confidence that we need to have in ourselves as Somalis,” she asserted that as long as she is in the United States Congress, no other country will take Somalia’s waters, and the United States will not support actions she deems as theft.

In an unusual congratulatory note to Somalian President Hassan Sh Mohamoud for opposing the MoU, Omar proclaimed, “Somalia is Somali, Somalia is one, we are brothers, and our lands are indivisible.” Her reference to “missing lands that we should be getting back,” including the Northern Kenyan territory of NFD and the Ethiopian Somali region, echoes back to the irredentism of the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre, which contributed to the downfall of the Somali Republic.

It’s noteworthy that Ilhan Omar’s apparent adherence to the destructive Somali ideology is linked to the late dictator Siad Barre, under whose regime Omar’s father served. Barre’s brutal dictatorship was marked by egregious human rights violation that culminated in the massacre of tens of thousands of Somalilanders by the very regime whose Omar father has served, raising concerns about Omar’s ties to a dark chapter in Somalia’s history.

Omar’s controversial statements, along with her recent removal from the Foreign Relations Committee, have fueled skepticism about her commitment to diplomatic prudence and nuanced foreign policy. Critics argue that the Congresswoman’s unchecked nationalism may jeopardize the principles of gratitude and loyalty expected from a public figure who sought refuge in the United States. The ongoing scrutiny surrounding Omar’s actions and statements raises important questions about her role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

Somalia’s Deal With Turkey Is Aimed at Ethiopia

The Somalia-Somaliland Airspace Dispute: A Historical Overview and the Path Forward


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