Op-Ed: Somalia’s Untapped Resources [Geopolitical Paradigm Shift & Proxy Wars]


The Horn of Africa is a region of East Africa that is home to the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. It is also a region that is positioned in such a geographically strategic location, due to its proximity to the oil fields of the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, and the trade routes of the Red Sea. Historically, these routes have attracted the attention of world powers, including the United States.

Due to its strategic location just south of the Red Sea, foreign powers in the West, the Middle East and the Far East have long interfered in the affairs of the region to increase their own influence. policy, achieve strategic leverage and have exclusive access to the region’s most untapped natural resources. Intrusions that continue to this day and intrusions that threaten to change the geopolitical paradigm with proxy wars and more bloodshed.

It is, in essence, a dangerous model of conflict. Lines are drawn and sides are inevitably and predictably formed. Those who are in contention line up against each other. Each waits for the other to give in. And the unfortunate result is that the region becomes more unstable, armed conflicts persist and the neighborhood continues to fracture.

The battle for geographic dominance in the Horn of Africa continues to fuel instability in an already volatile region. And at the center of it all is Somalia, whose north coast channels all maritime traffic to Bab el-Mandeb, a narrow bottleneck through which all ships to and from the Indian Ocean and the Indian Ocean must pass. the Red Sea.

He once again propelled Somalia into the geopolitical spotlight as a focal point of strategic and political importance. And, due to its geographic location, the stability of this region depends on the stability of Somalia.

And stability will not be easy as world powers continue to deliberately and aggressively assert themselves in the region. China has built one of its largest overseas military bases in Djibouti. Russia is establishing itself as one of the region’s largest arms dealers and is considering building a base on the Red Sea to fulfill its aspirations in the Middle East.

And the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar (along with other Gulf powers) continue to expand their role in the region, establishing strategic rivalries with the intention of creating further instability in the region to strengthen their presence in the region.

And, of course, the United States continues to present itself as a positive alternative, knowing that the loss of the waterways would have a significant economic and military impact. But while the words of the United States seem to indicate a vested interest in strengthening democratic institutions, improving stability and security, and delivering services to the Somali people, the actions, sadly, do not.

The United States cannot be satisfied with pursuing a foreign policy which seems exclusively built around the strengthening of the Somali campaign against Al-Shabab while competition for foreign powers (China, Russia, Turkey, etc.) builds bases, armies, hospitals, airports and seaports in one of the most important geostrategic locations on the planet.

It is very clear that the United States can no longer stay out. Given the importance of the region and the loss of influence that would likely result, the United States must increase its presence both economically and militarily to stabilize the region and promote order in the Horn while at the same time protecting against damage caused by competing and corrupt foreign interests. .

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. And the story doesn’t lie. We have seen what happened in Afghanistan. Presidential elections are scheduled in Somalia in the coming months and the United States must engage directly to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in the interest of inclusive political and economic development in the region. Let us not condemn ourselves by repeating the mistakes made in Afghanistan. It is certainly a great challenge, but we must meet it together for the good of the world.

For external actors involved in the Horn of Africa, the region is often an arena where they advance their own interests. This may involve cultivating alliances with local political actors, and potentially using them as proxies in broader international rivalries. These actions can have major repercussions on local political dynamics in the Horn. Alliances with foreign powers can dramatically alter the local balance of power, both between and within the countries of the Horn.

Moreover, through these alliances, international disputes can quickly spill over into domestic politics, potentially exacerbating existing local tensions if each party perceives that it can rely on strong foreign support.

Somalia: foreign influence in a fragmented regime

The spillover of foreign tensions in the Horn was striking during colonial times, when foreign powers like Italy, the United Kingdom and France each controlled part of Somali territory.

When World War II broke out in Europe, for example, tensions between European countries quickly spread to their colonies in Somalia, leading Italian troops from south-central Somalia to invade British-controlled Somaliland.

Additionally, in their efforts to mitigate anti-colonial resistance, colonial rulers often relied on division and impera (divide and conquer) tactics that widened existing rifts within Somali society.

In south-central Somalia, for example, Italian leaders have sought to capitalize on the marginalization of the Mirifle clans in order to enlist them in Italy’s struggle against the anti-colonial Somali Youth League. A vestige of the colonial era, these dynamics of foreign influence are still visible today, even if the main actors active in Somalia are now mainly from the Middle East.

Ismail D. Osman writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitics with a focus on Governance and Security. You can reach him osmando@gmail.com

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