Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeOpinionPart 2 : Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland: What is all the hoopla...

Part 2 : Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland: What is all the hoopla about?

Tibebe Samuel _ Ethiopia _ Somaliland
Tibebe Samuel (Photo : file)

Tibebe Samuel Ferenji  

“We are dying in Somalia because the peace of Somalia is the peace of Ethiopia. The development of Somalia is the development of our country. We believe we are brothers,” 
His excellency Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed

In part 1, this writer pointed out that the agreement that Ethiopia made with Somaliland is not unique from the agreement made by other nations with a de facto state. In addition to Ethiopia, UAE, United Kingdom, and Denmark have signed an agreement with Somaliland to build Somaliland’s infrastructure. We did not hear all the noises we are hearing today because of Ethiopia’s agreement. Instead of emotion, logic and the law should dictate the position we take on this matter. A close scrutiny of the sovereignty issue raises the question of whether Somaliland is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. To examine this, we need to understand the history of Somalia and Somaliland and how the current Republic of Somalia was established. 

This writer has no intention of undermining the sovereignty of any nation; but he believes that it is important to examine the facts and whether Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland is proper and legal. As indicated in Part 1, criteria for recognition of a particular territory as an independent nation are set by the UN. However, there is no binding “treaty” within the UN. In other words, any country in the world can recognize any territory that has a government, a territory that is controlled, a population, and the ability to have a relationship with others. Whether it is fortunate or unfortunate the world experience goes beyond this. When one looks at any issue from the legal point of view one has to examine not only laws established by particular statutes but also the precedent set by past practice. As indicated in the past, there is no international law that prevents Ethiopia from recognizing Somaliland given the fact that Somaliland has all the required criteria set by the UN. 

Beyond these criteria set by the UN, other countries have recognized other territories that do not qualify to be recognized as a country based on criteria set by the UN. Let us take the case of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, SADR is a “self-declared state claiming authority over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which is presently occupied by Morocco. The independence of the SADR has been recognized at various points by some 80 countries”. At this point, SADR is recognized by 46 UN member states and South Ossetia although it controls only 20 to 25% of the claimed territory and its government is in exile. Although Morocco claims the territory as its own, SADR is a member of the African Union and recognized by 18 African countries, 5 Arab League member countries, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

SADR has been a member of the OAU, and later AU since 1984. Morocco withdrew from the AU when SADR became a member; however, according to Aljazeera’s July 18, 2021, report, Morocco rejoined the AU 33 years later.  Aljazeera reported by stating “Morocco has been admitted to join the AU with a view that it will become the 55th member of the continental body. That’s made with the understanding that Western Sahara will remain a member of the AU,” said Lamine Baali, ambassador of Western Sahara to Ethiopia and the AU. If 18 African countries, 5 Arab League member countries and other 23 UN member countries recognized a territory claimed by an exiled government that controls only 20 to 25% of a particular territory, why is Ethiopia’s desire to recognize Somaliland, a territory that is controlled 100% by a democratically elected government, that has a functioning constitution, its own currency and passport, and has been governing itself since 1991 is such a magnet for conflict? 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of discussing this issue with Dr. Henok Tamire on Mengizem Media hosted by journalist Reyot Alemu. Dr. Henok made a point, like some do, that the difference between Ethiopia’s agreement and the agreement made by other nations with Somaliland is Ethiopia’s intention to recognize Somaliland as an independent nation and others did not; and he claims, this is the main reason for the controversy regarding Ethiopia’s agreement with Somaliland. This argument however does not hold any water because we did not hear any noise when the United Kingdom House of Commons recently discussed its intention to recognize Somaliland. When Gavin Williamson, a member of the United Kingdom House of Common introduced a bill to the parliament for the UK to recognize Somaliland on July 4, 2023, no one made a sound. When in February 2010, the State of Israel indicated that it would recognize Somaliland, no one opposed it. Many of the noise makers have claimed Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland violates Somalia’s sovereignty and will ignite another war in the Horn of Africa. Nothing can be further from the truth. 

The fact on the ground however clearly shows there is a very slim chance of war based on this particular issue. Contrary to many warmongers, we are witnessing today, the war drum that began in Mogadishu and echoed in Egypt is evaporating before our eyes. What is happening is quite the contrary; following Ethiopia’s footsteps, other nations are getting ready to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign nation. As one of the members of the House Of Common clearly stated Ethiopia’s presence in Somaliland will bring stability and economic development to the troubled area of the Horn of Africa. So far, many of those who are giving their opinion on this matter have forgotten the fundamental question in their arguments; the question is can Somaliland be considered part of Somali in a legal sense?  

Can Somaliland be considered part of Somalia?

In Part 1, this writer has touched on the history of both Somalia and Somaliland. Just as a reminder, it was in July 1961, five days after Somaliland’s independence from the British it voluntarily joined “the Italian Somaliland ” and established the Somali Republic. It is important to emphasize the fact that Somaliland and Somalia voluntarily joined hands and established the Republic of Somalia on July 1, 1961. When Mohammed Siad Barre took power after unseating the elected government of Somalia in October 1969 and adopting “Socialism”, he changed the name to the Somalia Democratic Republic. 

After Somaliland joined Mogadishu Somalia, it did not take long for an attempt coup d’état in Somalia to take place. In December 1961, Junior officers from Northern Somalia attempted to change the government by force; but the coup d’état was unsuccessful. Somaliland governed itself until Siad Barre came to power. After Siad Barre, Somaliland was subjected to enormous atrocities and the atrocities committed against Somaliland led to a civil war. In May 1991, Somaliland declared its withdrawal from the federal arrangement and declared its independence by establishing a Republic of Somaliland. In May 1991, Somaliland formed a government elected by the people, adopted functional constitution, and governed itself effectively while the Somali Democratic Republic was disintegrated. It is important to underline that Somaliland’s Constitution was ratified and adopted by a referendum in 2000.

What is worth noting here is Somaliland was never part of the Federal Republic of Somalia (FRS) when FRS was established with the assistance of the international community on August 20, 2012. The Federal Republic of Somalia was established based on the agreement made among various Somalia stakeholders other than Somaliland. The FRS was established with the understanding that other Somalia Regions would be included in the federation in the future. According to the news of the time, the agreements were signed during the Somalia National Consultative Constitutional Conference held in Garowe, the capital city of Puntland. This agreement is known as Garowe Agreement 1. There were follow-up meetings in Garowe known as Garowe 2 and also a meeting was held and an agreement was made in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which is known as the Addis Ababa Agreement. When the FRS consultation adopted and the agreement was signed, the Republic of Somaliland was governing itself and was not included in the agreement. When this is the case, how can Somalia legitimately claim Somaliland as part of Somalia? Is there any legal ground for such a claim? The resounding answer is No. 

To answer this question unequivocally, we must first understand what federalism is. The legal scholar Mohammed Arafat Khan in his article titled “An Overview Of The Doctrine Of Pith And Substance With Particular Reference To Canadian Law” states “The terms “federalism” and “confederalism” share a root in the Latin word foedus, meaning “treaty, pact or covenant”. In other words, the Federal system of government is established by two or more sovereign states by pact, treaty, or covenant. Since Somaliland has never signed a treaty, pact, or covenant to be part of the FRS, Somalia has no legal standing in its claim of Somaliland as part of its territory. Examining the African Union Charter and the UN resolution, Somalia will lose its claim in any tribunal.

Somaliland’s quest for independence is in the spirit of AU’s Charter.

Article 20 (2) of the African Charter states that “Colonized or Oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of oppression by resorting to any means recognized by the international community”. As this writer indicated in the first part and eluded at the top of this article, the people of Somaliland were subjected to enormous atrocities by Somalia’s government in 1980s. In fact, in the Nation magazine, Ismail Einashe and Matt Kennard in the article titled “In the Valley of Death: Somaliland’s Forgotten Genocide” published on October 22, 2018, stated “Thirty years ago, the US-backed Somali government slaughtered an estimated 200,000 people. Now survivors want US help uncovering the crimes.” The article stated “Between 1987 and 1989, the regime of Somali dictator Siad Barre massacred an estimated 200,000 members of the Isaaq tribe, the largest clan group in the northwest part of Somalia (Somaliland). At the time, some Isaaqs were fighting for independence, to eliminate the threat, Barre tried to exterminate all of them. Experts now say there are more than 200 mass graves in Somaliland, most of them in the Valley of Death.”. In addition, the 2001 UN report concluded that the attack against the Isaaqs clan (Somaliland) was a crime of Genocide that was planned, and perpetrated by the Somali government against the people of Somaliland. Therefore, in the spirit of AU’s charter, Somaliland has the right to self-determination ergo to be recognized as an independent nation. 

Somaliland’s right for independence based on UN resolution

One of the topics raised during my discussion with Dr. Henok was whether Somaliland has the right to independence. The answer is a resounding yes. The UN Charter Chapter 1 Article 1 States “ “The Purposes of the United Nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace….”. Moreover, the Legal Information Institute under Cornell Law School put the right of self-determination as follows “Self-determination denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order.  Self-determination is a core principle of international law, arising from customary international law, but also recognized as a general principle of law, and enshrined in a number of international treaties. For instance, self-determination is protected in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as a right of all peoples.” 

Since Somaliland’s quest for self-determination is consistent with the AU and UN charter, why has Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland faced such resistance? Ethiopia’s interest is to usher in a new era in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration with its neighbors. If Ethiopia has the desire to harm Somalia, all Ethiopia has to do is build a dam around the five rivers that flow to Somalia and deprive the people of Somalia’s clean water; these rivers are lifelines for the Somali people. The easiest and simplest thing to do would also be to remove the Ethiopian peacekeeping force from Somalia and defend against any attack that comes from the likes of Al-Shebab by strengthening Ethiopia’s defense within its border. What Ethiopia strives is for a development that benefits the entire of Africa. The notion that Ethiopia wants war as reported by Western media outlets is nothing but an attempt to paint a dark picture of the agreement and an attempt to demonize Ethiopia. We have seen such an evil deed during the conflict with the TPLF. The same media outlets that were making loud noises when Ethiopia defended itself from the TPLF aggression are silent as the State of Israel intentionally and with malice bombing cities, hospitals, residential buildings, refugee camps, and child care facilities. When it came to Ethiopia, the so-called Human Rights organizations, some members of the US Congress, EU, and the likes of Joseph Borell were sleepless drafting sanctions, issuing threatening press releases, and using other unprecedented methods to impose unwarranted pressure on Ethiopia. These voices are silent when Israel is massacring Palestinian children and committing other atrocities. It is such a double standard and unprincipled political positions from those who are supposed to be fair and just that makes this world worse than it is supposed to be. Most are beating the war drum because they know Ethiopia’s development means a way forward for Africa’s development and they create unnecessary Hoopla and noises hoping to derail Ethiopia’s progress. Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s useful idiots who can’t even differentiate between opposing the government and standing against the national interest of Ethiopia are standing with enemies of Ethiopia. Ergo, Ethiopia finds itself in a challenging position from outside actors and inside traitors.

It is no secret that some of Ethiopia’s neighbors are not happy with Ethiopia’s progress because Ethiopia’s development threatens their own power. Ethiopia’s rapid growth is exposing the inept leadership in Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, etc. Moreover, the neocolonialists are hellbent on preventing any progress in any African country. Particularly Ethiopia is a target because Ethiopia has been a shining example of freedom and resilience for many African countries. Some Western-educated brainwashed hateful ethno-nationalist useful idiot “intellectuals” assert that there is no more neocolonialism. These individuals should open their eyes and see what France is doing to West African countries. Moreover, the recent US Congress Resolution HR145 shows how the US undermines African leaders. This resolution wants to dictate to South Africa how it conducts military exercises with China and Russia. The US Congress also acted as a “colonial power” in its attempt to dictate African governments’ relations with the Russian Federation. HR 7311 issued by the 117th US Congress is a clear indication that the West is still in its neocolonial mindset era. It is because of US Congress members’ superiority complex and neocolonialist mindset that the likes of Congresswoman Ilhan Omer wholeheartedly believe that they can impose their will on Ethiopia and Somaliland. These egomaniacs have failed to understand that Ethiopia has the Golden Key for Somalia’s survival. 

The likes of Egypt are beating the war drum not because they are concerned about the sovereignty of Somalia, but because Egypt has its agenda and wants to use the opportunity to demonize Ethiopia and promote its political agenda. If Egypt is truly concerned about Somalia, where were Egyptian leaders when Somalia was immersed in civil war? It is not Egypt that is protecting Somalia with blood and sweat, it is Ethiopia. Fortunately, Ethiopia has a strategic thinker leader who uses his head instead of his emotions to handle the challenges that Ethiopia is facing. In his recent speech to the Ethiopian Parliament, Dr. Abiy Ahmed clearly said “[our enemies] cannot make us fight with Somalia ”. Despite the unwarranted and unsubstantiated accusation by his detractors, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has proven time and again that using force against anyone is a last resort. Ethiopia has made it clear it wants peace and wants to share its resources with Ethiopia’s neighbors. Ethiopia’s leader is operating with the spirit of Pan-Africanism and this is why those afraid of the rise of Africa badly want another war in Africa. Perpetuating war and anarchy are the way the West is keeping down Africa. African leaders need to be smart and break the cycle of violence.  

Instead of listening to ill-conceived voices and depending on those who are used to empty bravado, it would be wise for the government of Somalia to contemplate and engage with Ethiopia in dialogue in a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation. As Dr. Abiy said, Ethiopia’s progress would be progress for Somalia. African countries must work together to resist the unwarranted Western interference in the internal affairs of African countries. Strengthening relations among African countries and the AU would allow Africans to stand together in the face of aggression and exploitation. It is a shame for African countries to watch France extort half a Billion Dollars every year from its former colonies in the guise of paying for infrastructure built during a colonial era. This is adding insult to injury. It is a shame for Africans to allow this to happen at this time and age. When is France going to compensate West Africans for the mineral resources it took from its former colonies? Isn’t it enough for France to create havoc in its former colonies by engaging in assassinating leaders who resisted France’s exploitation and impositions? It is Africans’ weaknesses that allowed France to continue to exploit Africa and its neocolonialist mindset made France believe that it still has the right to get compensation from its former colonies.  

It is time for Africa to wake up and realize that war is not the answer. The Western powers want conflict in Africa because our fighting allows them to control our resources and interfere in our affairs. Ethiopia will not take away land from Somaliland; it is a lease and the land will remain in the hands of Somaliland. For all practical reasons, the chance that Somaliland will join the Federal Republic of Somalia is just an illusion. Therefore, Ethiopia’s action is legitimate, prudent, and makes the region safer. 

The FRS Constitution Article 142 and Article 90 of the Republic of Somaliland:  

 The Somaliland constitution existed since 2001 and the Federal Republic of Somalia came into effect in August 2012. Even the Federal Republic of Somalia gives Somaliland the right to conduct its foreign affairs. Federal Republic of Somalia’s Constitution Article 142 states: “Existing Federal Member States in Somalia (1) Until such time that all the Federal Member States of Somalia are established and the adopted Federal Member State Constitutions are harmonized with the Somali Federal Constitution, the Federal Member States existing prior to the provisional adoption of this Provisional Constitution by a National Constituent Assembly shall retain and exercise powers endowed by their own State Constitution.” (Emphasis added). In other words, Somaliland can use its constitution which was ratified in 2001 to conduct its affairs. In addition, Article 90 (6) of The Republic of Somaliland’s Constitution gives the executive branch the power to conduct Somaliland’s foreign affairs. Given all these facts in law and practice, this writer is forced to ask what is all the Hoopla about? Why is Somalia looking for a solution in all the wrong places?

May God protect Ethiopia from all internal and external enemies. 

Part I : Here

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


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  1. Thank you so much Mr. Tibebe for very well articulated piece. this is a lesson to those are indulged in gibberish and bizarre articles.

  2. This Part 2 is more convincing to me than Part 1. You made a good case for Ethiopia signing the MOU with Somaliland and I am convinced that independent Somaliland is for the best interest of peaceful region. I will probably lead for more regional cooperation by taking away the incentive of exploiting Ethiopia for lack of sea access.


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