By Dr. Elmi M. Nur
Sunday January 21, 2024
The Somali government undertook a serious diplomatic campaign and successfully gained international support for protecting the territorial unity and sovereignty of its country against what can only be considered the most desperate and reckless action by Ethiopia in its illegal attempt to annex part of the territorial land of the Red Sea in the Awdal region of Somalia. Rightfully, this collectively angered and mobilized the Somali people across our nation and in the Diaspora to join the efforts of their government in saying not an inch of Somali territory will be taken by Ethiopia.
Like with most treachery throughout history, the Ethiopian government's failed Trojan horse was an illegal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between him and Muse Bihi who leads a region of North Somalia or Somaliland. Ethiopia shamelessly broke all diplomatic norms and international law and shocked the world with this illegal and irrational deal by signing the MoU with Muse Bihi. This action, while completely illegal, is a manifestation of the degree of political and economic frustration that PM Abiy and his government are currently facing a situation of run-away inflation, deepening poverty and economic bankruptcy nearing as Ethiopia defaults on its loans from private banks and debt servicing to International Financial institutions. Additionally, the domestic conflict and internal strife within Ethiopia resulted in unprecedented disintegration of the country on ethnic lines which in itself poses a huge national and regional security risk.
Like PM Abiy, a warmongering Muse Bihi, whose term expired in November 2022, led the people residing in the Somaliland part of Somalia into a devastating clan conflict. Despite all his military bravado, Bihi’s mainly clan militia of an army was heavily defeated after waging a violent war against civilians of Las-Anod who did not recognise his supposed independence seeking Somaliland as separate from Somalia. This resulted in the reduction of his administrative territory to less than half of its previous size after losing control over the eastern region of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC). This is on top of the huge human loss on both sides, destruction of property, livelihoods and heightened tensions which exists to this day.
With their desperate domestic situations, it seems PM Abiy and Muse Bihi they entered into the suicidal MoU deal to cede 20km of precious coastline and unidentified commercial marine services to Ethiopia in exchange for dubious shares in Ethiopian Airline. Strangely enough, Muse Bihi claimed that Ethiopia agreed to be the first country to give diplomatic recognition to Somaliland as part of this MOU agreement but it is strange, probably the first time in diplomatic history and international relations, that such kind of a doomed attempt to exchange part of land or Sea for diplomatic recognition was willfully entered into by two parties that had no mandate to do so.
Some misguided hardliner secessionists have attempted to misinterpret the historical facts and argue that Somaliland was recognized as an independent country in 1960. This never happened and what these people mistakenly refer to are the early congratulatory notes from some countries, mostly members of the Commonwealth countries, during the four-day (June 26-July 01, 1960) brief stint between independence and the formation of the union which gave birth to the Republic of Somalia. According to this Union Act, the unity is permanent and irrevocable as the “The State of Somaliland and the State of Somalia do hereby unite and shall forever remain united in a new, independent, democratic, unitary republic the name whereof shall the Somali Republic.” This remains the fact to this day.
From a domestic and international legal perspective, Muse Bihi has no legitimacy to grant, sell, or lease any piece of land or part of the Sea of Somalia to an international party as he attempted to do on 1st January 2024 in Addis Ababa. This is a sovereign issue and no unrecognized entity can enter such an agreement. Thus, as Somaliland is undisputedly an integral part of Somalia in international law and under the jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the MoU is a clear violation and aggression against the unity sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Somalia on the part of Ethiopia. Accordingly, this is why the all our major bilateral and multilateral partners unequivocally rejected it and the government of Somalia nullified it immediately.
The illegal MoU is an Ethiopian-orchestrated fraud that cannot offer the false hope of independence to Somaliland in the same way it fails to deliver the supposed recognition shoved down people's throats by force in the Somaliland region of Somalia by Muse Bihi. By signing the MoU, the Ethiopian government, and PM Abiy Ahmed directly, undermined regional cooperation, security, and the very notion of neighborliness and peaceful coexistence.
Somalia and Ethiopia have a long history of territorial dispute and the Somali people already feel aggrieved that a large portion of their land and population has been siphoned off to Ethiopia by the colonialists. Now, the Somali people see the signed Ethiopian MoU as rubbing salt in this wound and they will never accept this insulting provocation. The people of Awdal, SSC, and other parts of Somaliland where diverse tribes reside refuse to swallow this divisive poison and illegitimate transgression that serves only PM Abiy’s Oromo tribes historic expansionist dream. Consequently, this is now followed by vocal and loud calls for the formation of an autonomous administration of the Awdal region following the creation of Khatumo state only a few months ago.
As Their Excellencies President Dr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre made clear many times since the illegal MOU signing, the Somali people are ready to defend their land to the last person's last drop of blood. This reflects the devotion and love our people have for their Somali nation. "Not an inch" is not just a fancy slogan: it is the raw feeling that our people will never allow Ethiopia to encroach on our sovereignty and territorial integrity. They will also never allow any Somali politician to do this too.
The dignity, sovereignty and prosperity of the people of the Somaliland region of Somalia lie within the realm of "Somalinimo." Togetherness and unity with fellow citizens to develop our nation is a precious concept and source of strength for which we must all be ready to sacrifice for. This is the only way to protect ourselves and advance as a nation and people.
At this time of global uncertainties, division, and conflict, it is important that the Horn of Africa not be plunged into conflict by illegal expansionist Ethiopian dreams formed in the unpredictable mind of PM Abiy Ahmed. The reality is that this will never happen. Accordingly, we hope the Ethiopian government returns to its senses and retract permanently from any claim to, or "lease of" Somali territory. Somalia unequivocally belongs to the Somali people. This is final.
The author is a Member of the Federal Parliament of Somalia (House of the People) and the former Finance Minister of Somalia.