The recent actions of Musa Bihi Abdi, the leader of the breakaway Somaliland region, have sparked significant concerns about the existential risk this renegade region poses to all of Somalia. In a drastic move, Abdi has unilaterally ceded a portion of Somalia’s coastline to Ethiopia in exchange for shares in Ethiopian Airlines and potential recognition of Somaliland as an independent state.
Long before Abiy Ahmed’s adventurism on the Red Sea, Ethiopia had long sought to seize the Somali coast. For over 150 years, it has attempted not only to encroach and annex Somali territory, namely Western Somalia, but also fomented border conflicts, inherited from the equally predatory British colonial empire, since Somalia gained its independence.
Additionally, Ethiopia has actively participated in dismantling the Somali central government and put all its effort to divide and arms clan fractions against each other since 1991. Somaliland and the clan militia which is behind its inception is an Ethiopian brainchild.
Since the early 1980s, secessionists within the Somali National Movement (SNM), of which Bihi was one of the leaders, have served as a conduit for Ethiopian plans to divide and conquer Somalia. Training, weapons, troop transport and subversive propaganda tools were provided to support the Somali rebels who were instrumental in the collapse of the only unity government in 1991.
Thus, Somaliland, which unilaterally declared its independence the same year, spread with Ethiopian support to Awdal, Sool and Sanaag, regions until today strongly anti-secessionist. It then took advantage of the long power struggle between clan militia in the capital Mogadishu to consolidate its secession.
Moreover, Ethiopia helped fuel the long civil war in the south, in and around Mogadishu. The incessant fighting opposed sub-clans militias armed by Ethiopia, with assistance from Americans and British intelligence.
When one party had the upper hand and was on the verge of unifying the country, Western nations rushed to intervene in Somalia, using Ethiopia as a willing proxy. This was the case of General Mohamed Farah Aydid in 1992 and the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006, who clearly stated their opposition to Somaliland’s secession.
Then more weapons, more foreign troops and more support flowed to any clan, warlord and politicians willing to keep Somaliland’s secession intact and accept the division of the country into autonomous entities.
At the same time, secessionists financed from the start by the British sought international recognition by selling the idea that Somaliland was a historically and politically distinct society and by insisting that they had no interlocutor with a government Somali.
When a stable and acceptable government overseen by Ethiopia emerged in Mogadishu, they covertly sent volunteers, equipment and money to Al-Shabab, the extremist group that seeks to prevent the formation of a central government.
Al-Shabab’s most famous and brutal leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, originally from Somaliland, struck a deal with his northern secessionist clan that their region would be safe from his nihilistic group and, in exchange, the port of Berbera, in the separatist region, would be used to smuggle weapons and explosives.
Interestingly, Godane and other terrorists from Somaliland, other than recruiting from their region of origin, never labeled secessionist leaders as apostates as they liberally did with federal government leaders. Anyone labeled an apostate by Al-Shabab is destined to be murdered.
Al-Shabab is now losing ground to federal forces in their stronghold, notably in Galgudud and Middle Shabelle, and the route through which their weapons transited from the port of Berbera is now cut off thanks to SSC -Khatumo, now independent of Somaliland.
Now that this existential risk is well-founded, the Somali government has no choice but to put an end to it immediately before the situation gets even worse. Hargeisa’s secessionists have enjoyed more than three decades of leeway, and even though they are running out of steam, they have become bolder and more reckless.
Furthermore, and this is even more dangerous, the secessionists of Somaliland are offering cheaply to foreign countries a piece of land in a region over which they have no legitimacy. Today it is Ethiopia but before that it was the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and even Egypt which, at the height of the dispute over the Ethiopian G.E.R.D in 2020, wanted a military base in the region of Zeila.
Even before Ethiopia, Somaliland’s heedless search for recognition has poisoned Somalia’s diplomatic ties with other African countries like Guinea-Conakry and Kenya. This inclination to damage Somalia’s relations with other nations goes hand in hand with a vicious smear campaign in international forums. by hateful clannish secessionist such Edna Aden, the octogenarian who glorifies the British colonial empire.
To conclude, President Hassan Sheikh must realize Somaliland became a liability, that the secessionist leaders are beyond cure and he must stop flirting with this very people who are working to bring down our nation.
It is high time to tackle this existential threat head-on and plug this breach in the nation that serves as a conduit for predatory states. It is about our security, our unity, our territorial integrity, the sustainability of the nation, in short, our own survival as Somalis.