Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeOpinionSomaliland port deal provided Abiy What Assab port claim couldn’t

Somaliland port deal provided Abiy What Assab port claim couldn’t

Somaliland port deal - Ethiopia
Somaliland port deal

Dr. Minale Taye

After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Abiy Ahmed’s ego inflated out of proportion, leading him to undermine and dismantle his political opponents. He even pushed his friend Lemma Megerssa and others out of the political game. With newfound boldness, he initiated a war against the TPLFites, receiving support from Eritrean forces, as well as the Afar and Amhara region forces. Additionally, he acquired drones from UAE, Turkey, and Iran, which aided him in achieving repeated victories over the TPLFites and their five hundred thousand-strong forces. Following a devastating war that claimed the lives of one million people, Abiy Ahmed devised a plan to dismantle any potential resistance in the Amhara region under the pretext of implementing the Pretoria agreement. This agreement ultimately saved him and his military commanders from facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to their involvement in the two-year conflict. Abiy Ahmed and his military commanders believed that disarming the Amhara forces, including Fano, would be an easy task. However, this decision turned out to be a grave mistake for all of them.

Two main reasons why Abiy made mistake to send Army to Amhara region

First, his assessment of the Amhara culture was wrong. It is essential to know that guns are deeply rooted in Amhara culture, much like the Texan people in America. As 80% of the Ethiopian population lives in rural areas, if we assume the same proportion for the Amhara region, 80% of the people there use guns to protect their harvest, cattle, and families. They also rely on them to defend their country from foreign aggression, particularly in the northern western part of the region. In general, the people in the region are law-abiding, and they do not use their weapons without reason. In short, guns are an integral part of their culture. Sending the army to disarm the people in the Amhara region was a grave mistake, as people took it personally. If you gave up your weapon, you were perceived as weak. Taking away your hard-earned legal weapon means someone wants to completely subdue you. Hence, people joined the Fano movement, and the momentum reached its peak. There are many other reasons why the people felt it was wrong too – why start disarming in the Amhara region while the neighboring ethnic groups are left alone with their sophisticated weapons, and so on.

Second, the military was sent into uncharted waters. They marched in every Amhara region’s rural area, including unfamiliar mountains and fields. On the other hand, the local farmers who joined the Fano movement knew their surroundings very well and were highly skilled in hitting their targets. Fighting the army was like eating a piece of cake for them. The military began to lose the fight dramatically. Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed in just six months, and Fano forces captured many more. Additionally, the military engaged in shooting civilians for political reasons, leading to low morale within the army, and many started to defect from the military.

Moreover, the use of several rounds of drone attacks on civilians in several places has increased, calling for swift action from the international community.  It is reported that two drones have crashed this week. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that people have started to sabotage his only military power over Fano’s forces. Meanwhile, the people are highly mobilized to join Fano forces. Consequently, as we speak, Fano is successfully dismantling the military in the four subregions of the Amhara region: Wello, Shewa, Gojam, and Gondar. Right now, Fano is a more organized and robust force that can lead both the political and military aspects of the region and the country. This scenario marked the beginning of the end for the Abiy regime. As the Fano movement gained momentum and victory became more realistic to them, even beyond the Amhara region and to Arat kilo, Abiy needed a narrative, a grand narrative that could help him dominate the news cycle. He came up with the idea of getting a port.

The Way out from the defeat by Fano : Port Narrative 

The timing and context of the reckless foreign policies in connection to ports are crucial factors in understanding why he is behaving and acting like this. In the past eight months, Abiy Ahmed ordered his army to go to the Amhara region to collect arms from the people. As claimed above, the pretext of the military operation is the Pretoria agreement. For foreigners, He is trying to implement that agreement. However, his grand political goal was to subdue the Amhara people by force and establish his kingship for the coming decades. But he lost it big to Fano.  Since then, the statue of Abiy Ahmed as a leader began to crumble dramatically. Suddenly, he became known as the immature “boy king,” as one scholar called him. Furthermore, his credibility as a leader began to falter among leaders in Africa and beyond. Across the media and social media, his leadership was diminished, and Western powers started to question if he was the right person for the country and if he could be their partner in the region. They needed to protect their interests in the Horn. Abiy needed to regain his stature. He came up with the idea of controlling the narrative. He called it the GRAND NARRATIVE. Following this, he ordered many dramas: military shows, this, and that day, and so on. It did not work. Then he started to meddle in the region with reckless foreign policies. For that, he used one card: the foreign policy of getting ports.

In just a few months, the Ethiopian leader envisioned owning ports and claimed the right to access and establish a presence in the Red Sea Arena. By hook or by crook, he wants to achieve this goal diplomatically or militarily. He argues that a nation of over 120 million people cannot sustain its landlocked status, especially considering it is the dominant economic power in the Horn of Africa. It seems reasonable and fair that Ethiopia deserves access to ports. Of course, Ethiopians know that Djibouti and Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia’s administration at some point in history. The Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed, is well aware of this and tries to appeal to most Ethiopians by reconnecting to that shared history. However, in doing so, he has already created an atmosphere of hostility with the surrounding countries: Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and others. Now the country is facing a complex diplomatic problem. If one delves deeper into the motives and intentions behind such reckless foreign policy in the 21st century, one may find that the reasons for such a crazy move are far from the rationale that the country deserves a port. Instead, it is part of the grand narrative and political goals that Abiy Ahmed and his associates seek to achieve.

Assab versus Somaliland Port

First, he claimed the Assab port and a presence in the Red Sea, planning to go to war with Eritrea. However, he faced significant resistance from various sides: i) The Eritrean government mobilized its forces to the border and warned him not to attempt it. ii) He hoped the TPLFites would join him in the war against Eritrea, believing they would seek revenge on the Eritreans, but they responded coldly. iii) The majority of Ethiopian people, especially the Amhara people and Fano, rejected his plan. iv) On social media, the diaspora launched an intensive public diplomacy campaign exposing his real motives to go to war by dominating his media and social media cadres. v) The regional and international community discouraged him from going to war with Eritrea, except for the UAE. vi) The US also sent a message advising him  not to start another war, as they did not want to add another international conflict in addition to the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Hamas. 

Then he came up with the idea of acquiring another port. He entered into an agreement and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a region in Somalia, Somaliland, which is not recognized by all countries worldwide. This is a reckless foreign policy move for a country like Ethiopia. The fact that Ethiopia is among the pioneer countries that founded the UN and the African Union means that such an MOU is a significant diplomatic blow to the country. However, he seems to prioritize his power above all else. Now, this move has mobilized the Somalia government and most Arab League countries, including Egypt, against Ethiopia. The possibility of another war with Somalia seems to be looming every day. This is what Abiy wants. He intends to withdraw the military from the Amhara region under the pretext of a war with another country, rather than acknowledging the defeat by Fano forces. This would undermine Fano’s victory over his government. He plans to mobilize the country for another war, initially hoping to achieve this through the Assab port claim, which failed. Now, the Somaliland port claim seems to be giving him what he wants. The problem appears to be attracting the attention of many powerful nations. Egypt has begun mobilizing countries around Ethiopia against Abiy, and the UAE is heavily involved in supporting him. That is why the head of the US government’s spy chief is in the region this week (Nairobi, Kenya, and Mogadishu, Somalia).

Whenever the news cycle focuses on the issue of ports, Abiy feels relief since he can squash this news cycle in one day by saying, “Sorry, this was a mistake, and we will correct our path.” But he cannot correct the mistake he made in the Amhara region. Where can he station the army if he decides to withdraw the military from the Amhara region? We remember he ordered his army to leave Tigray after staying for eight months and stationed them in the Amhara region. What about now? Can he withdraw the army to the Oromia region? He also has a problem there. It is reported that the OLF (OLA) forces are now on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. There are reports that they are intermingled with the people in some parts of Addis Ababa. This means the conflict will come to Addis Ababa. That means the end of his regime. 

One has to admit that discerning the intentions and motives of a human being is a tricky business. However, by connecting the dots (events, speeches, actions, etc.), one can predict some of the trajectories with certainty. Fano seems to be toppling the Abiy Ahmed regime in a very short time. This transpires daily, and the political elites who have the tank and bank are calculating their chances of survival by any means. Abiy’s four strategies to win over Fano’s victory are: i) undermine Fano’s presence, ii) dominate using grand narratives (Assab port, Red Sea presence, Wenchi project, and so on), iii) dominate the fight with indiscriminate drone attacks, and iv) divide the Amhara people and let them kill with each other (militia and Denb askebari against Fano). All of these are not working. The army may not sustain a few weeks’ fighting in the Amhara region. Right now, Fano is undergoing significant operations across the Amhara region. The end of Abiy’s kingdom has come, which means the end of his government, for many reasons: i) Fano will defeat him, ii) his Oromo PP friends will throw him out of power, iii) the military will act and remove him from power, iv) the international community will force him to leave the country like Mengistu Hailemariam, v) he will resign like Hailemariam Desalegn (less probable), vi) the people of Addis Ababa may revolt against him, and so on. So, considering all these problems, he should face the Somaliland conflict. At least the conflict is now between countries. He may hope to galvanize all Ethiopians to unite to fight Somalia and leave him alone. Ultimately, he hopes Somaliland’s port claim might give him a chance of survival. Is this the right move at this time? No! It might be the end of his regime once and for all. Time will tell!

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 


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  1. With all the respect:
    „ he initiated a war against the TPLFites….“
    I don’t think this is true. Fact is:
    – TPLF started the war
    – TPLF started beating the drums of war
    – Members of the civil society tried a lot to stop TPLF from starting a war.
    – Of course the GOE should have acted clever to avoid war instead of closing the doors.


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