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Geopolitics around Somalia

Author: Aneela Shahzad
Affiliation: Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research
Organization/Publisher: Express Tribune
Date/Place: May 28, 2021/Pakistan
Type of Literature: Analysis
Word Count: 1500
Keywords: Geopolitics, Somalia, Horn of Africa, Destabilization
Somalia is a mystery of paradoxes between its excellent geostrategic location at the gate of the Red Sea, and its forever instability rooted in the colonial scramble for the Somalis’ lands among colonial powers. During colonial times, Somali lands were divided into French Somaliland (now Djibouti), Italian Somaliland, British Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland, and the Kenyan North Frontier District; at the time of independence, parts of this land were incorporated by Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti with the resulting cross-border flares still seen today. Due to these border conflicts, Somalia and Ethiopia have been geopolitical battlegrounds; while the Soviets had been supplying arms and funds to the government of Somalia, the US was sending its arms to the clan chiefs, thus changing cities, airports, and harbors into self-declaring autonomous regions following the collapse of central authority and its Soviet backers. The Cold War rivalry left Somalia divided among warring autonomous regions, each with its foreign supporters from far distances and within the Horn of Africa such as Kenya and Ethiopia, each motivated to counter Somalia’s struggle for separatism. In the Horn of Africa, the territorial sovereignty of states doesn’t matter and actors can easily play across the border as inter-family feuds. Just last year, Kenya intervened in Somalia’s elections in neighboring Jubaland, and tried to put its loyalists in power in the semi-state, while Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia invited Eritrean soldiers to support his counterinsurgency against the Tigray rebels and his border conflict with Sudan. Similarly, Somali President Farmaajo has used Ethiopian troops to deter his local opponents in Somalia. The rapid proliferation of foreign military bases in the region in recent years makes the region’s politics more complex and hopeless. Currently, the region is home to and the planned destination for military bases of key global and regional actors including the US, China, France, Italy, Japan, UAE, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Such stationing of rival global and regional actors makes countries in the region vulnerable to imported conflicts and proxy wars. Moreover, these militaries facilitate the smuggling of illegal weapons and strengthen the militias and non-state actors whose methods and atrocious crimes include systemic ethnic cleansing, rape, starvation, and massacres in the Horn of African countries. No international or regional platform has been able or willing to bring peace in the region, because a destabilized Horn of Africa is more lucrative than a stable, self-supporting sovereign and a peaceful set of states at the gate of the Red Sea.
By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Research Associate



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