First, Djibouti’s “Strategy of Big Brother of Somalia” has backfired. On the one hand, President Gelle is capitalizing on his longstanding experience in the diplomatic field and managed to maintain a reasonably good, though not warm relationship with Hargeisa. But the Djibouti leader has invested heavily in the relatively remote Somali territory of Mogadishu, thinking that the Big Somali Brother of the twentieth century is still in existence. Consequently, Djibouti has participated in the training of the Somali army and also joined the battles against Al Shabab, thus gambling on the existent of its tiny army in favour of stabilizing the situation in Somalia.
This week, Mr Gelle of Djibouti has paid a well-arranged official visit to Mogadishu where he was received with lavish red carpets reception and unusually friendly domestic welcoming ceremonies. During his stay in Mogadishu, the Djibouti president was sending unmistakable message to his diehard rival, Eritrea, which is in a territorial dispute with Djibouti, but commands far larger and more properly trained military apparatus. Mr Gelle was telling the president of Eritrea that Djibouti is at the heart of the people of Great Republic of Somalia, which is an illusion since the present-day Somalia is in shambles and has no border with Djibouti after Somaliland has declared its independence in 1991. But, as far as Gelle is concerned, it was worth playing the games of “Paper Tigers’’.
The Eritreans took the matter very seriously and have sent their foreign minister to Hargeisa to equally show they have cards to play in taming the Djibouti leadership and their presumed Big Bothers. Closer relationship between Eritrea and Somaliland and the threat of Eritrea’s Recognition of the independence of Somaliland would put Djibouti between the rock and hard place. Djibouti’s continued ignorance of its naturally strategic brethren of Hargeisa could be tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. Djibouti will be isolated from the Somali communities in the horn of Africa if their relationship with Somaliland is not in good Sharpe. Secondly, their western neighbours and potentially emery of Eritrea will find Djibouti as a tiny and friendless rival and this would significantly negatively impact Djibouti’s position in any future negotiations with Eritrea.
Recent developments indicate that the dynamics of the Game of Throne in the Horn of Africa are turned in favour of independent Somaliland. As discussed above, the new rapprochement between Somaliland and Eritrea is a welcome development as far as Somaliland is concerned. Secondly, the dispute between Somalia and Kenya is working to the benefit of Somaliland as some very influential voices in Nairobi are demanding that Kenya should recognise this new nation; these are mostly from political parties, Kat traders, and independent thinktanks strategists. Thirdly, Ethiopia which the Horn of Africa Big Brother is under new democratically oriented regime and would do everything it takes to maintain peace and tranquillity in the geological environment in the region. This phenomenon is also in favour of Somaliland which is one of the few democracies in the Horn of Africa.
Finely, the recognition of Somaliland is becoming compelling reality as the days pass and this would encourage international investors like the UAE to upgrade their stakes in Somaliland. This in turn will create a strategically located new competitor to Djibouti which presently has a monopoly over the maritime logistical support and re-trade services provided to Ethiopian with a population of 100 million.
Hassan Abdi Yousuf
Horn Geopolitical Analyst