The world order has become more volatile subsequent to the election of Donald Trump as a President of the United States. Since his election, he is running a foreign policy that is inconsistent, incoherent and unpredictable. He is hostile to America’s most important alliance, the EU, and is highly sympathetic of Brexit. His trade war with China is affecting the world economy.
In the Middle East, the Arab league is barely functional. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and its arch enemy Iran are fighting a proxy war in Yemen and elsewhere in the region. Palestinian cause is up in the air as countries in the Gulf have chosen to pursue their national interest over that of Palestine, and are certainly forging a strategic partnership with Israel.
In the Horn of Africa, some positive changes have emerged. Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed peace agreement. Also Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia have forged a trilateral agreement that entails security, defense and economic cooperation. The era of TPLF and its divisive policy is over. In the meantime, Hassan Al-Bashir is overthrown and is in jail for corruption charges.
On the other hand, Kenya is nervous about the new development because its role in the region is shrinking as Ethiopia’s interest has shifted. More importantly, the looming instability in Ethiopia is of prime concern to the Horn of Africa and to the wider East African communities.
Anarchy and disarray has always dominated international politics. Somalia has to be on guard to secure its survival. It needs proactive diplomacy that could devise a strategy to sustain its national interest.
What Somalia should do?
Two foreign policy matters require immediate attention and overhaul. Commitment to regional peace and development should be a priority for Somalia. But this should be done by either demanding IGAD to reform or quit from the organization. Somalia cannot survive with IGAD as is now. Just recently the Secretary General of IGAD elevated the status of Mr. Mohamed Ali Guyo, a Kenyan national not only as the Special Envoy for Somalia, but also for Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, while there is no single Somali national serving at the executive level. Very strategic indeed. It must be understood that Kenya though it does not border with Red Sea and Gulf of Adan has managed to position itself as the main driver of the new Red Sea and Gulf of Aden initiatives. This is a slap in the face for countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan who hail from the Red sea and Gulf of Adan.
There is a growing frustration among IGAD member states regarding the way IGAD is hijacked. Countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and even the new Ethiopia sees IGAD as a regional institution that failed to deliver its mission. Somalia needs to spearhead a diplomatic campaign aimed at either reforming IGAD or pushing for the creation of a new regional block, a block of the willing. Obviously Djibouti will not be part of this change at least at the beginning because it hosts IGAD, therefore, Somalia should remain committed to prioritize its strategic interest without alienating Djibouti.
If reform is denied, it is our national survival to drive the diplomacy for a new regional block that excludes hostile countries. Our differences with Kenya is widening. Somali nationals entertaining Kenya’s divide and rule policy for their personal gain are leaving behind a terrible legacy, a legacy of national treason. Anyone undermining Kenya’s soft occupation in Somalia is in denial. Kenya has partnered with other hostile countries to dismantle Somali National unity and is devising a political strategy to take over our land and sea. They will use the likes of Madoobe to destroy the aspiration of the future generations.
Aiding a foreign entity at the expense of Somali national interest has been the political platform of the past several decades. Unfortunately, the power struggle in Somalia is guided by a personal greed and has had major repercussions to the security, development and survival of this nation. The problem touches the nature of our deep political division. Somalia’s current leadership should commit to mobilize the public against external and internal axis of evils that is threatening our great nation.
We ought to pursue a foreign policy that purely defends Somalia’s national interest. Time has come to call a spade a spade and IGAD, a dysfunctional organization that often serves as a political instrument to meddle in the internal affairs of Somalia and South Sudan.
The new block should focus establishing closer economic ties, and common security and defense strategies. Keeping in mind that the region has become a battleground for geopolitical struggle. Our existence is interdependent and only through collective strategy we can mitigate all threats facing the region.
The second foreign policy change that is way overdue is what to do with Israel. The notion that Arab countries are friends or brothers with Somalia is a fantasy of the past. Indeed some Arab countries have pursued policies that are detrimental to the stability of Somalia. The question whether Somalia should establish diplomatic relations with Israel is not a matter of debate, but a matter of time only. Historically, Somalia never had a direct confrontation with Israel, but our policies always remained supportive of Palestinians because of conviction of their plight. Nevertheless, countries have interest, but no eternal friendship. Considering the current reality in the Middle East, and the fact Somalia is a victim of the geopolitical infighting between GCC member states, it will be unwise to stick with the same arguments of the past. Relationships are shaped and guided solely by the interest of the country. As the regional interests diverted, the search of a balanced diplomacy that enhances the status of Somalia internationally should be adapted. Diplomatic pragmatism calls for pragmatic solutions; it is time for Somalia to seriously consider establishing friendly relationship with Israel without compromising its long standing moral position of the two states solution.
By Naima Osman