Somaliland wants to be included in the Taskforce on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The Somaliland government says that any initiative to coordinate a response to changing Red Sea environs that does not include them in a meaningful way will lack the credibility, capability and representativeness necessary to contend with competing multinational cooperation efforts in these waters.

The IGAD initiative aims to develop a common position to boost security and economic interests in the region.  It recognises the strategic importance of Red Sea to the peace and prosperity of the Horn, and provides a platform for participatory.

But Somaliland now claims that despite being a major stakeholder in the Red Sea, they have been excluded in the task force.

“Somaliland, despite being a major stakeholder in Red Sea governance, regrets the lack of consultation and inclusivity which it was afforded within the process behind the initiation and formulation of the Task Force. At the same time, it remains unclear what role, if any, the Task Force envisions for Somaliland.”

In a statement from the Somaliland ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country said any plan of action set forth by neighbouring governments that pertains to or impacts its territorial waters without their (Somaliland) active participation and consent of her representatives is unacceptable.

“There is no escaping the fact that Somaliland has become a major diplomatic, political, economic and security force in the region. Its border cooperation with neighbours, which spans issues of human trafficking, illicit trade in goods and border security, has been vital in protecting countries such as Ethiopia and Djibouti from the Horn’s trouble spots, where volatility, conflict and danger prevail,” the government said in the statement.”

It added: “Safeguarding the security and sustainability of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden concerns all countries that share these coastal waters, and Somaliland supports multilateral approaches to our common challenges and opportunities. However, Somaliland will not recognize endeavours that exclude legitimate stakeholders based on arbitrary, irrelevant or discriminatory criteria.”

“Somaliland has borne the brunt of this burden, dedicating nearly half of its meagre budget to insulating IGAD member states from conflict across the sea in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. In recognition of this reality, Somaliland entrusts that IGAD’s leadership and member states will make all efforts to include Somaliland in the Task Force, in a manner reflective of and respectful towards, its importance and potential contribution.”

“Somaliland is an independent and sovereign country, and any plan of action set forth by
neighbouring governments that pertains to or impacts its territorial waters without the active participation and consent of our representatives is unacceptable to Somaliland.”

Geopolitical and security challenges

In February the foreign ministers of Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan gathered in Djibouti and focussed their discussions on the geopolitical and security challenges that countries on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden were facing.

And on April 4, a task force was established to build a common position and strategy to respond to the challenges and opportunities in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

But Somaliland which boasts of a longer chunk of the coastline alongside the Red Sea (850 kilometres) than any other IGAD member state now wants to be included in the task force.

“Somaliland looks forward to any cooperation that actively contributes to the security and
prosperity of this area, without compromising the sovereignty of any country. Somaliland views its peace, stability and prosperity as intimately tied into that of the region as a whole, and will continue to work with IGAD and its member states on all matters and efforts in which shared interests can be pursued in an equal mutually beneficial manner,” the self-declared independent state said.

“Through a longstanding commitment to internal peace, stability and social cohesion, the Somaliland Government and people ensured that the territorial waters straddling this coastline have remained safe and secure, thus facilitating the safe passage of commercial shipping and naval traffic that is so vital to global trade.”

“The major up scaling and expansion of the Berbera Port in the coming years will make the city a key strategic hub within IGAD’s integrated and maritime-facing regional trade network. And, in cooperation with initiatives such as EUCAP, and in partnership with a variety of bilateral aid partners, including the United Kingdom funded modern operational management software systems (ASAAS), Somaliland is developing professional and modernised patrol, surveillance, rescue and response capabilities to guarantee the smooth operation of such maritime trade, in the face of threats such as piracy, organised crime and smuggling networks.”

By Odindo Ayieko

 

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