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Somaliland resists Chinese influence in Africa as it seeks…

(MENAFN – SomTribune)

The self-declared state of Somaliland seeks recognition from the United States as it presents itself as a counterweight to Chinese influence in the Horn of Africa.

Calls are mounting for Washington to set up a representative office in Somaliland, which hosted a delegation of congressional staff in its capital Hargeisa in mid-December.

Diplomats and observers have said that in exchange for opening a diplomatic office or formal diplomatic recognition, the Port of Berbera could help the United States diversify away from neighboring Djibouti, where China has a military base and financed and built ports and free trade zones. areas.

President Musa Bihi Abdi told the time of the US fact-finding mission, which was mostly made up of Republican personnel, that Somaliland was committed to working with democratic nations such as the United States.

“We discussed in depth Somaliland-US relations, stability, development, vibrant democracies and elections,” Abdi said.

The visit came a month after Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd Mohamoud and Special Envoy Edna Adan Ismail led a delegation to meet with officials in Washington.

In addition to arguing for recognition, the delegation wanted Washington to remove it from its inclusion in the State Department’s “Level 4: Do Not Travel” classification for Somalia, citing harm to its economy.

In exchange for recognition, Somaliland welcomed investment from American companies and also promised Washington to resist Chinese influence in the Horn of Africa.

Bashir Goth, chief of mission in Washington, told Politico the delegation traveled to the United States “to show that we have the same enemy and that our long-term strategy is to get closer to democratic and market economies. like the United States”.

He also said, “We are fighting against China and Chinese influence in Africa and we are asking for help from the United States.”

Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, opened a representative office in Hargeisa in August 2020. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen described it as “an important step for the Taiwan-Somaliland partnership”, but the move sparked strong protests from Beijing.

Djibouti, Ethiopia and Turkey have consulates in Hargeisa while Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and the European Union also have offices there.

Although Somaliland separated from Somalia 30 years ago, it lacks international recognition and has set up representative offices in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Great Britain Britain and the United States with the aim of gaining international support.

Analysts say that as China increases its presence in the Horn of Africa – particularly Djibouti, where it has financed and built ports and free trade zones, as well as established its first naval base in abroad – the United States could use Berbera, a port on the Gulf of Aden, to diversify away from Djibouti.

Although the United States has a military base in Djibouti, recognition of Somaliland would bring “significant” benefits “starting with allowing Washington to diversify away from Djibouti, a country on which it is too dependent and which is increasingly more under Chinese influence,” according to a report. last year by Joshua Meservey, senior policy analyst for Africa and the Middle East at the Heritage Foundation think tank.

Meservey argued that “Beijing’s unprecedented influence in [Djibouti] has already hampered US operations – and positions China to halt US activity in the event of a confrontation between the two countries”.

Analysts and former US diplomats have said it is time to recognize Somaliland. Robert O’Brien, the former US national security adviser, said recognition of Somaliland as an independent country “is a key step in stemming the rising tide of the Chinese Communist Party on the continent and would show other nations that ‘there is an alternative to China’s Belt and Road’. initiative in East Africa and around the world.” “When a free, developing nation stands up to China and rejects its tainted aid, the United States must do everything possible to help it succeed, by especially when it is in a strategically vital region. Somaliland is one such country and deserves both recognition and assistance from the United States,” he said.

Guled Ahmed, a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, said recent developments “show a new US geopolitical momentum in the Horn of Africa that could lead to at least the US government opening a diplomatic office in Hargeisa. “.

He said the United States may consider maritime development and security partnership in the Gulf of Aden and perhaps reconnaissance in the near future. Somaliland has already signed an oil exploration development with Genel Energy and Taiwan CPC Corporation through a public-private partnership.

“US companies will likely follow this lead since US oil companies officially own the rights to drill some of the oil blocks in Somaliland,” Ahmed said. Ahmed said that from China’s perspective, “Somaliland recognizing or having diplomatic relations with Taiwan is a threat to its maritime silk road and the Belt and Road Initiative, and it will disrupt its activities. illegal fishing in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean”. Chinese Ambassador to Somalia Fei Shengchao dismissed reports that Chinese companies were engaging in illegal fishing in Somali territorial waters, adding that China fully respects the country’s sovereignty.

“Fisheries cooperation is based on mutual agreement. He brings millions of dollars to Somalia with no strings attached. There are those who don’t want to see a dime paid to Somalia and continue to muddy the waters to ‘fish’ for themselves,” Fei tweeted on December 27. Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center in Washington, said “the voice calling for recognition is louder than before.” But she said the reason for the current relationship between Somaliland and Taiwan was their respective lack of international recognition. “If the United States recognizes Somaliland, more countries will follow,” Sun said.

“I doubt China will reject the idea. And if China is willing to expand diplomatic recognition of Somaliland, what leverage does Taiwan still have?

However, US policy had been to follow the example of the African Union, which so far had not promoted Somaliland’s recognition as an independent country, said David Shinn, a former US diplomat in Ethiopia and a professor. at George Washington University. It treats Somaliland as part of Somalia. Although there is considerable sympathy for Somaliland in the United States, I am not aware that there is any intention to change American policy on this subject,” Shinn said. “There is probably members of Congress who are in favor of recognizing Somaliland, but it is an executive decision. “As long as Somaliland is not recognized by any country, it is not a major problem. If Somaliland received diplomatic recognition from a number of countries, China would fear that Somaliland would officially recognize Taiwan. China would react badly to such a development.

South China Morning Post

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