Militarization in the Horn, opportunities against Risks for Somaliland

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Existing or planned foreign military bases in the Horn of Africa region

Somalilandsun- We are all aware that Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden has become an athletic field of foreign powers. We can describe that the region has become a military garrison. Republic of Djibouti hosted military bases and facilities for France, USA, Germany, Japan, and Saudi Arabia; also China more recently established its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Likewise Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE have military bases in Eritrea. Turkey established military bases in Qatar and Somalia. Recently Somaliland previous government hosted UAE to establish a military base in our dear port –Berbera. Turkey also signed an agreement with Sudan that granted the right to construct a military base and Naval dock in Port Suakin- a ruined Ottoman old Port.
Besides the military raises competition of the world superpowers that existed in the Horn; the less than one year-Gulf crisis and competition for influence between Gulf States stretched beyond the Arab peninsula in to the Horn. The Horn region is now becoming a Gulf states battlefield; and a theatre for the fierce rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran; a sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. These together played an increasingly influential role in the Horn’s geopolitics; and are potentially fuelling the region’s internal political unrest; by placing the fragile peace arrangements in the Horn at risk.
For example, when recently Sudan granted for Turkey to construct a military base in its port in the red sea; Egypt responded and sent troops to Eretria; and Sudan immediately closed its borders with Eritrea. The war in our next door country-Yemen, with the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s weak government and Houthi-rebels supported by Iran is intensifying.

However Somaliland lies in a strategic region that interfaces the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden across the strategic Bab-al-Mandab Strait, the Red sea and Horn of Africa. This strategic region is more important for the trade and security of both Somaliland and the countries that lie in this region. That is why the UAE is projecting itself as a regional military power in the war in Yemen, eager to establish foreign military bases in the region’s ports; and specially to use Berbera port as aircrafts takeoff offensive base for the bombardments on the Houthis. While DP World has been acquiring the management of Berbera port; achieving both an economic and military interrelated strategy gains.
The agreement of signing a military base for one of the factions warring in Yemen has inevitable security risks for Somaliland. Deliberately being part of the conflict in the region is a blind and suicidal decision. Already the first political quarrel deepened this week when Somaliland, DP world and Ethiopia signed a tripartite Berbera Port deal that worsened the spat between Somalia and Somaliland. This provides us an incentive example to understand and take a closer look to the unpredictable consequences of mingling with these political and military rivalries in the region. And more political and security risks will be ahead of us if Somaliland hosts a foreign power military base in Berbera.

So, the Policy makers of Somaliland should pursue a realistic interest-seeking political strategy; and stop putting the country on fire in exchange for dollars. Bihi’s government must reverse the decision of the previous government of hosting a foreign military base in Berbera. He should prevent this little unrecognized state from the potential risks and complications that a foreign army base comes with.
In one way or another, the militarization competition of our geostrategic region (the Horn and the Gulf) has political and economic opportunity implications for Somaliland. Despite these opportunities, to mingle with the conflict, moved among and engaged with one of the warring groups; by providing a military base will have security and political risks for the country.

uae military base in berbera somaliland

Accordingly, since the advent of competing foreign powers in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf is both an opportunity and risk for Somaliland as an unrecognized country, there is a need for well designed, rational and assertive foreign policy aimed at utilizing the economic, social and political opportunities; while minimizing the many angled risks surrounding these opportunities. This double edged situation (opportunity and risk) will be determined by the accuracy of the diplomatic effort and policy reorientation that president Bihi’s government takes. “Opportunities and risks make a combustible mix; if you don’t get the right formula, it can blow up in your face.”
.Adam Ali Younis Email: aayonis@hotmail.com

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