The longstanding feud between the Somali government and the northern breakaway region of Somaliland could take a new shape following the latest calls by Moscow for fresh talks, months after a Djibouti-led mediation seems to have hit a deadlock, despite...
The longstanding feud between the Somali government and the northern breakaway region of Somaliland could take a new shape following the latest calls by Moscow for fresh talks, months after a Djibouti-led mediation seems to have hit a deadlock, despite pressure from the EU and the US.
And now, Russia, one of the world's economic superpower, wants the two teams to resume talks that had seemingly collapsed, despite a commitment by the international community to broker a lasting deal between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, for the benefit of citizens.
Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN said the Russian government is urging both sides [Somaliland and Somali government] to consider a compromise way of resolving the differences.
“We are concerned about the breakdown in August of the second round of talks between delegations of Somalia and self-proclaimed Somaliland. We urge both sides to consider a compromise way of resolving the differences,” Vassiliy Nebenzia said.
“It is important to resume talks between the governments of Somalia and Somaliland,” the envoy added.
Surprisingly, this is the first time Russia is talking about the feud, which has lasted for almost three decades. There were claims recently that Russia was targeting to establish a military base in Somaliland, to rival the US and China who have stations in neighboring Djibouti.
Muse Bihi Abdi, the Somaliland president, had in July insisted that the deadlock could be solved should the international community and Somalia recognize Somaliland as a sovereign state. Since then, the region has intensified calls for statehood quest.
“The act of recognizing and supporting the independence of Somaliland would go a long way to heal the wounds of the past and enable our two states to embrace each other in our independent but closely interwoven futures,” he said.
Actually, the two sides have met in at least seven rounds in London, Dubai, Ankara, Istanbul, and Addis Ababa. But both sides have fundamentally been at odds over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty. This impasse, in turn, has bled into disputes over territory, the management of resources, and security cooperation.
Throughout this time, the European Union and the US have been on the frontline pushing for reconciliation between the two sides. Somaliland claims to have seceded from Somalia in 1991 after the end of the civil war which culminated in the ouster of Siad Barre.
While Russia has been largely absent in the Horn of Africa affairs, according to Samuel Ramani, a DPhil candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations at St. Antony’s College, the University of Oxford specializing in post-1991 Russian foreign policy and the dynamics of protracted conflicts in the Middle East, the Russian Federation has made significant progress towards recapturing its great power status in the region.
“After spending nearly three decades as a marginal player in the Horn of Africa, the Russian Federation has made significant progress towards recapturing its great power status in the region. Russia has engaged with all countries in the Horn of Africa and refused to take sides in the region’s most polarizing conflicts, so Moscow can be best described as an “engaged opportunist” on the Horn of Africa,” writes Ramani.
He adds: “Russia is principally focused on establishing itself as the region’s leading arms vendor, but prospectively, has one eye on constructing a Red Seabase.”
The speculation of Russia establishing a military base in Somaliland was swiftly quashed by the Kremlin. On February 7, Ambassador Golovanov stated, “Russia does not consider the port of Berbera to deploy a military base. Negotiations on this issue are not conducted.”
The Horn of Africa continues to attract big economies who are keen to invest massively especially in the military, and besides the US and China having bases in Djibouti, Turkey has the largest overseas training center in Mogadishu. Russia has a huge presence in Mozambique.
Somaliland is also attracting interests from other African countries notably Egypt, which is rumored to be planning to establish a military base in Berbera. The move almost raised a conflict between Cairo and Addis Ababa, but a temporary solution seems to have been settled.