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Ed Webb

Ethiopia: Exploiting the Gulf's scramble for the Horn of Africa - African Arguments - 0 views

  • the United Arab Emirates played a key behind-the-scenes role in facilitating the deal between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki. Both men met with Emirati leaders on several occasions before and during the reconciliation, and they have stayed in regular contact ever since.
  • After decades of disengagement, countries east of the Red Sea are scrambling to gain a greater footprint along the opposite coast. In response, states on the Horn such as Ethiopia are trying to leverage these rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics to enhance their own influence.
  • Relations between the Horn of Africa and Arab nations east of the Red Sea date back over millennia. They took a turn for the worse following the 1973 “Oil Crisis”, triggered when oil-producing Arab counties cut down production to punish Western countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Horn countries became collateral damage as inflation skyrocketed. To overcome economic devastation and soaring debt, they began to court oil-rich Gulf States, offering political loyalty and natural resources in return for aid. Countries such as Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, and Sudan invoked their cultural and religious connections with the Gulf in a bid to gain help in dealing with their balance of payment crisis and political instability. Arab nations seized the opportunity, using their wealth and newfound geostrategic importance to expand their influence in the Horn and secure key loyalties.
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  • profound geopolitical shifts have now renewed the Middle East’s interest in the Horn and reinvigorated the strategic significance of countries west of the Red Sea. The two main reasons for this are the war in Yemen and deepening intra-Gulf rivalries. These factors have led three main groups to vie for influence in the Horn: the Arab axis (led by Saudi Arabia and UAE, but including Egypt and Bahrain); the Iran axis; and the Qatar-Turkey axis.
  • Saudi Arabia is reportedly developing a military base in Djibouti and is considering Ethiopian requests to supply it fuel for a year with delayed payments. Meanwhile, the UAE has agreed to provide Ethiopia with huge loans, investment and infrastructure support; it has upgraded Eritrea’s Assab port and constructed a military headquarters nearby from which it has launched offensives into Yemen; and its company DP World has secured contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the ports in Berbera and Bosaso, located in the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland respectively.
  • main aim is to isolate Iran, with which it has a long-standing feud, and contain the influence of the Qatar-Turkey Axis, which it accuses of promoting “political Islam”.
  • Qatar and Turkey also have deep footprints in the Horn through development aid, trade, and investments in infrastructure. Both are heavily involved in Somalia, where Turkey manages the capital’s ports and airports and has a military base. And both are investing heavily in Suakin in Sudan, with Qatar announcing a $4 billion plan to develop the port this March. There are reports that Qatar has also financed Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, drawing anger from Egypt and its Arab allies, though Ethiopia has denied these claims.
  • Somalia has been particularly affected by intra-Gulf rivalries as some regional governments have pulled in opposite directions in an aim to consolidate alliances across the sea.
  • Amidst the growing competition for influence among the Middle Eastern axes, Addis Ababa has managed to avoid taking sides – at least publicly – and leverage its geostrategic significance as the region’s hegemon to attract much-needed investment from several different partners.
  • Ethiopia has also positioned itself well to benefit from the complex scramble for Red Sea ports. The land-locked country relies on Djibouti for nearly 97% of its imports, but now has clear avenues for diversifying its routes to sea. The rapprochement with its neighbour should give it access to Eritrean ports, while the UAE’s development of Berbera in Somaliland will give it another crucial option. Ethiopia defied the Somali federal government’s objections when it supported the UAE’s deal with the semi-autonomous region, but in return it has acquired a 19% stake in the project.
  • The combination of Gulf’s transactional politics and Africa’s often kleptocratic leadership could prove treacherous as historic rivalries take on new twists and matters develop beyond the Horn’s control.
Ed Webb

UAE and the Horn of Africa: A Tale of Two Ports - 0 views

  • On February 22, Djibouti seized control of the Doraleh Container Terminal from its joint owner and operator, the Dubai-based DP World. The seizure was not wholly unexpected and was the culmination of Djibouti's deteriorating bilateral ties with the United Arab Emirates and a lost legal battle with DP World to renegotiate the terms of the port concession that gave it a 33 percent equity stake in 2006. The London Court of International Arbitration Tribunal ruled against Djibouti's claims, lodged in 2014, that DP World paid bribes in order to secure the 30-year concession
  • Doraleh opened in 2009 and is the only container terminal in the Horn of Africa able to handle 15,000-ton container ships. It quickly became the most important entrepot for the region's largest country and economy, Ethiopia, which was rendered landlocked by Eritrea's independence in 1993. Ethiopia receives around 97 percent of its imports through Doraleh — around 70 percent of the port's activity — in what has become an unacceptable strategic reliance on a neighbor
  • the increasingly complex dynamics animating the geopolitics, and the more localized politics, being shaped by the competition among aspiring regional powers of the Middle East — particularly Gulf Arab states and Turkey — and China for influence in the Horn of Africa
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  • A year after DP World finalized an agreement with the semiautonomous region of Somaliland to develop a $442 million commercial port in Berbera, Ethiopia inked a deal with the port operator and Somaliland's government to acquire a 19 percent stake in the port. There are reportedly plans for DP World to upgrade the connectivity infrastructure linking Berbera to the Ethiopian border that would allow Addis Ababa and potentially greater East Africa to reduce their sole dependence on Djibout
  • The intra-Gulf Cooperation Council crisis has added another destabilizing variable, as countries, parties, and elites in East Africa have been forced to choose sides
  • Along with the competition by outside players has come greater leverage for Horn of Africa countries, whose elites have long been adept at playing external patrons off one another. Ethiopia has to some degree succeeded in diluting Abu Dhabi's reliance on its enemy, Eritrea, by supporting its plans for the Berbera port. In 2015, after losing access to Djibouti for military operations, the UAE constructed a base in the coastal Eritrean city of Assab, which has been vital to its operations in southern Yemen. By supporting the UAE's military and commercial infrastructure plans in Somaliland, Ethiopia — the Horn of Africa's largest and most powerful country — also contributed to the fracturing of Somalia by encouraging the de facto consolidation of Somaliland's independence
  • In Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have led efforts to rehabilitate President Omar Bashir in the international community by lobbying for U.S. sanctions on Sudan to be lifted. Bashir agreed to cut ties with Iran and send troops to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen
  • Bashir also agreed to lease Turkey the Red Sea island of Suakin for development. Though Turkey has denied it, concerns quickly arose that Ankara planned to build a new military base on the island, which would be its second in the Horn of Africa with the first in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
  • The confidence with which Horn of Africa elites are pursuing their own interests at the risk of angering new patrons underscores the high stakes for the participants in this so-called "new scramble for Africa," and also their long-term intent. Djibouti in particular emerged over the past decade as a strategic focal point next to the Bab el-Mandeb shipping lane, existential for the flow of Gulf energy to Europe and goods between Asia and Europe. It has leveraged its location for lucrative basing deals for current and emerging world powers alike. The United States, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and former colonial ruler France all have bases in Djibouti.
  • the UAE's longer-term interests — as well as those of its competitors — are economic and strategic. The country is working to make itself an essential component of China's Belt and Road Initiative and secure Dubai's Jebel Ali as the key logistics and trade hub linking Asia to Africa via DP World infrastructure, in the face of competition by a glut of new ports built by rivals with similar ambitions in Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and elsewhere along the Horn of Africa
  • ports projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Algeria, and Mali
  • State-backed and private investors from the UAE have invested in a wide range of non-energy sectors, from finance and banking to construction, tourism, food, entertainment, and agri-business
  • The UAE is also trying to make the nature of its engagement more attractive for African governments and private sector partners: Rather than following the path of China, which has been perceived negatively as following a pseudo-colonial model in Africa, it is looking more toward the Turkish model. Investments such as DP World's in Somalia or military bases come with packages of infrastructure investment, training, and education for workers and security forces, as well as inducements such as greater numbers of visas to the UAE
  • Food and water security continues to be an important interest for the UAE and other Gulf countries in East Africa. Emirati companies are seeking to avoid the political pitfalls that have caused past investments in land for food production to fail. Privately owned Al Dahra Holding, which owns farmland in Africa, claims to use a 50-50 sharing formula for produce with local companies and hires local workers
Ed Webb

DoD Unprepared For The Global War On Terror's Next Front: Africa - 1 views

  • It appears that Africa will almost certainly become the next major front in the Global War on Terror. According to Congressional Research Service Africa analyst Lauren Ploch, the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria to their home countries in Africa will pose a huge problem for DoD. Tunisia has the highest recorded number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Iraq and Syria ever; Libya’s weak borders and milieu of non-state armed actors make it an appealing safe haven for ISIS escapees; in the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram has split into two factions aligned with ISIS and al Qaeda, respectively; Somalia remains fertile ground for al Shabaab terror recruits; even Egypt may reach the limit of its security capabilities in responding to cascading regional threats.
  • U.S. involvement in the Saudi military intervention in Yemen has plunged the Pentagon into two distinct engagements: one in support of the Saudis, and one against al Qaeda and ISIS. These tensions are most pronounced not in the Lake Chad Basin, according to Ploch, but the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Red Sea that are subject to the overlapping geopolitical rivalries the Trump administration detailed in its National Defense Strategy.
  • “Waterfront property in the African countries along the Red Sea seems to be an increasingly hot commodity: The U.S. and France have had military facilities in Djibouti for over a decade, but the country is getting increasingly crowded. China just opened a base and Saudi Arabia is in talks for one.”
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  • “Fragile states, governments not in control of their territory …  People can set up camp and do whatever they want. Nothing will change in Libya or Somalia or parts of the Sahel like Mali or Niger. There are terror groups operations there that aren’t even connected to international terror … who we used to go in and target in places like the eastern Congo. We’re not doing those things. There’s no appetite for that.”
  • “In terms of AFRICOM’s ‘bread and butter’ activities — namely security cooperation — it is still somewhat unclear how DoD and the [Trump] administration will prioritize limited resources; AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.”
  • These training missions “are five guys deploying to a country they’ve never heard of and trying to professionalize military justice, or even just get troops to walk in a straight line,” she told Task & Purpose. “[AFRICOM] was given an impossible task and no money to do it, and they have to deal with lots of people who like to operate without oversight and take advantage of this. It is not their fault.”
  • ‘training and equipping’ — or more often ‘equipping and training’ — isn’t enough,”
Ed Webb

A Year of Change in Ethiopia | United States Institute of Peace - 0 views

  • there are also many inconvenient facts in Ethiopia’s political transition. First, Prime Minister Abiy has been able to rapidly introduce reforms because he can still rule by fiat. In some ways, his management practices resemble those of a freewheeling CEO, rather than those of a consultative, deliberative politician. Such reforms, though far reaching, may not be irreversible nor sustainable. Second, progress has not been linear. There have been serious setbacks because of intercommunal conflicts: 620,000 Ethiopians are now displaced due to fighting in Gedeo, in the Southern region, and West Guji, in neighboring Oromia region. Nationally, more than two-million Ethiopians are internally displaced.
  • The Horn of Africa is at an inflection point that will define the region’s future for a generation. The political transition in Ethiopia is a pivotal part of this, as is the developing situation in Sudan, the increasingly assertive engagement of the Gulf states in the Horn, and other developments. One thing is certain: Ethiopia is too big for its political transition to fail, and how its transition proceeds will be one of the main factors determining the stability and security of the Horn of Africa in both the near and long term.
  • worrying reports of an increase in illicit arms flows to ethnic militias in various parts of the country
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  • Economic inequality and the frustration of youth, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, was one of the main drivers of the protests that began in 2016 and ultimately precipitated Abiy’s ascension to power. Ethiopia must add two-million jobs per year to keep pace with population growth, a tremendous challenge under the best of circumstances.
  • Ethnic identities matter to many Ethiopians, even if the idea of ethnic fluidity—through intermarriage, for example—is well established for many people. At the same time, Abiy is tremendously popular as an individual, which offers him an historic opportunity to address these inter-regional grievances.
Ed Webb

Egyptian officials: Sisi's visit to Djibouti part of East Africa 'charm offensive' | Ma... - 1 views

  • The visit, which is the first by an Egyptian head of state to Djibouti, is part of what two officials in Cairo familiar with the arrangements say is a “charm offensive” in the Horn of Africa, where Egypt has been at loggerheads with Ethiopia over the filling and operation of the mega dam project on the Blue Nile and has been concerned over its relative lack of influence in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, an area it considers its backyard both for potential resource management along the Nile and commercial trade in the waterway leading into the Suez Canal.
  • Cairo’s image in the region took a hit when it sided with ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, according to two Egyptian officials, a move they say in retrospect was a mistake
  • The Djibouti visit comes after a flurry of defense cooperation agreements with Nile Basin countries since the start of the year, including Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Sudan. These build on the framework provided by the Red Sea Council, of which Egypt formally became a member in November. The charter was signed by the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in January 2020. Egypt and Sudan held joint military drills in Khartoum this week.
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  • since 2019, Egypt has become aware that Addis Ababa has been presenting Cairo as a “North African, Arab country” that doesn’t care about the rest of the continent
  • Egypt’s foreign policy in the Horn is also about re-establishing a security presence over the Bab al-Mandeb, the strait leading into the Red Sea and Suez Canal, where Egypt had grown concerned about the increased presence of foreign powers
  • By establishing a presence in East Africa, Egypt will have the opportunity to cooperate with international powers that are trying to expand their presence in the region, including the US, Russia, and China, says one of the Egyptian officials, adding that this cooperation could take the form of trade agreements, combatting “terrorism” or controlling irregular migration
  • Egypt has grown increasingly worried about the role of the Emirates, which has become a major power broker and the principal architect of the security framework in the fiercely competitive Red Sea, with bases in Berbera, Somaliland; Bosaso, Somalia; and several coastal ports in Yemen, where it had fought alongside the Saudi-led coalition since 2015.
  • while Turkey and Egypt have publicized their quiet rapprochement, Turkey has made its own prominent foray into East Africa: signing a military cooperation with Niger last year; being invited by Somalia, to whom Turkey has long provided aid, to explore for oil in its seas; and holding high-level talks with Ethiopian officials.
  • A consultant for the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Africa policy previously told Mada Masr that Turkey’s “developing relations with Ethiopia is a direct answer to Egypt. There are two dimensions. We want to develop our relations with Ethiopia, and we want to develop our relations with an Ethiopia that is stronger against Egypt. A strong Ethiopia against Egypt is something that Turkey wants.”
Ed Webb

Horn of Africa, India Desert Locust Situation Serious, UN Says - Bloomberg - 0 views

  • A desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa and the Indo-Pakistan border remains “serious and threatening,” the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization said.
  • “Breeding will continue along both sides of the Red Sea, which could be supplemented by the arrival of a few small swarms on the Eritrean coast from Ethiopia, causing a further increase in locust numbers,”
  • An increased number of swarms formed during October in India and Pakistan, the FAO said. The insects are moving west to Iran “where recent rains should allow them to survive until the spring.”
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  • swarms can cover up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) a day. A small swarm eats as much food daily as about 35,000 people, according to the FAO
Ed Webb

When is a nation not a nation? Somaliland's dream of independence | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • in Somaliland, there is never any question that you are in a real country. After all, the place has all the trappings of countryhood. When I arrived at the airport, a customs officer in a Somaliland uniform checked my Somaliland visa, issued by the Somaliland consulate in Washington DC. At the airport, there was a Somaliland flag. During my visit, I paid Somaliland shillings to drivers of cabs with Somaliland plates who took me to the offices of ministers of the Somaliland government
  • according to the US Department of State, the United Nations, the African Union and every other government on Earth, I was not in Somaliland, a poor but stable and mostly functional country on the Horn of Africa. I was in Somalia
  • Unlike South Sudan before its independence, Somaliland’s claim for statehood is based not on a redrawing of colonial borders, but an attempt to re-establish them. Unlike Taiwan, it is shackled not to a richer, more powerful country, but a poorer, weaker one. Unlike Palestine, its quest for independence is not a popular cause for activists around the world
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  • What separates “real” from “self-proclaimed” countries is simply the recognition of other countries. There’s no ultimate legal authority in international relations that decides what is or isn’t a real country, and differences of opinion on that question are common. What separates the Somalilands of the world from, say, Sweden is that Sweden is recognised by its peers
  • what would happen if you created a new country and no one noticed?
  • Try to book a hotel in Somaliland online from the US and you are likely to be referred to a travel advisory stating: “The US Department of State warns US citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of continuous threats by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab.” But once you’re there, you quickly realise that such warnings are unnecessary. Hargeisa is one of the safest large cities in Africa, and, aside from the pollution and the traffic, there’s not too much to be concerned about when you’re walking around, although foreigners travelling outside the capital have been required to hire an armed guard since the killing of four foreign aid workers by bandits in 2004
  • Adan was Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife, and the first Somali woman to drive. She spent years as a UN and WHO official before returning to Somaliland to build the hospital with her own savings; for all its limitations on personnel and equipment, it is one of the premier facilities in the Horn of Africa. She’s been called the Muslim Mother Teresa for her work in promoting women’s health and campaigning against female genital mutilation. She also served for several years as Somaliland’s foreign minister, continuing to deliver babies while on the job.
  • It shouldn’t be surprising that today the territory where the colonising power had more ambitious state-building goals is the more unstable. There is evidence from studies of regions of India and other parts of Africa to support the notion that postcolonial countries where colonisers had a lighter touch turned out better in the long term.
  • On 26 June 1960, the former Protectorate of Somaliland became fully independent from British rule, its independence recognised by 35 countries around the world, including the US. The next day, its new legislature passed a law approving a union with the south. On 1 July, Somalia became independent from Italy, and the two were joined together. It is a decision Somaliland has regretted almost ever since.
  • During the 1980s, with support for Barre and his harsh military regime eroding, a primarily Isaaq northern rebel group known (somewhat misleadingly), as the Somali National Movement (SNM) emerged to challenge rule from Mogadishu. The crackdowns that followed simply added to the perception that the north was a region under occupation. This culminated in an all-out civil war between the SNM and the central government in the late 80s, during which thousands were killed and millions fled.
  • “It’s the elders who really made this peace,”
  • Whereas Somaliland had been considered a backwater by the British, and therefore left mostly to govern itself through the existing clan structure, Italy considered Somalia an integral part of its short-lived ambitions to build a north African empire that also included modern-day Libya and parts of Egypt.
  • Non-recognition by western powers is having an impact on the status of women as well, Adan argued, saying that western countries’ lack of engagement was opening the door to the influence of fundamentalists from the Gulf. She pointed to an old photo of herself as first lady in a chic cocktail dress: “You see my pictures! We never used to cover ourselves from head to toe,” she said. “We had necks, we had hair, we were people. Others are getting into Somaliland faster than the west. And if that keeps on like this, heaven help us.”
  • Its main industry is livestock export, which accounts for about 70% of jobs. Its main customers are in the Middle East, and business picks up during the annual hajj in Mecca. With few opportunities at home, it’s not surprising that an estimated 44% of unemployed youth have stated their intention to migrate.
  • A large number of people are also dependent on $500m per year in remittances from the roughly million-strong Somaliland diaspora living for the most part in Britain, the US, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Africa. This isn’t unusual for developing countries, but officials are understandably worried that this flow of cash from abroad is a finite resource
  • The twin hopes for the Somali economy are oil exploration – currently being carried out by a handful of hardier energy firms off the coast – and a plan by Dubai Ports World to develop the Red Sea port of Berbera, which could conceivably be an alternative means of bringing goods by sea into landlocked Ethiopia. But it’s hard to imagine that plan taking off without a serious improvement in roads and infrastructure, and that probably requires international investment
  • Although it’s true that Somaliland voluntarily erased the border with Somalia in 1960, Somalilanders don’t consider that decision irreversible. As Somalilanders often point out, theirs wouldn’t be the first country to back out of a postcolonial merger. Senegal and the Gambia, a narrow strip of a country located completely within Senegal’s territory, were joined together as the confederation of Senegambia from 1982 to 1989. Egypt and Syria were briefly joined together as the United Arab Republic from 1958 until 1961, when Syria seceded. If these countries couldn’t make their marriages work, why, Somalilanders ask, should Somaliland be stuck in a loveless alliance?
  • For Somaliland, the frustrating reality is that the world map is preserved in place less by international law or even custom than by what’s sometimes called “path dependence” – the thousands of small decisions that, over time, lead to the creation of institutions, and that are very hard to unmake without massive disruption. Countries tend to stay the way they are, and people, with some justification, believe it would be awfully difficult and dangerous to change them.
  • We are treated as de facto independent – it is only the de jure recognition of sovereignty [we lack]
  • International organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League are hostile to the idea of recognising further territorial divisions. Countries wary of their own separatist movements don’t want to establish any sort of precedent. The UN, which has invested enormous resources in promoting stability and unity in Somalia as a whole, views Somaliland as a hindrance to those goals rather than any sort of beacon of stability. Somaliland’s neighbour Ethiopia mostly supports it, but given Addis Ababa’s wariness about its own Somali separatists, it likely prefers the status quo – a weak and divided Somalia – rather than a strong independent Somali state on its borders. The two most recent instances of country creation in Africa – autocratic, impoverished Eritrea and anarchic, violent South Sudan – have not bolstered Somaliland’s argument that its recognition would be a boon to regional and global stability.
  • the US NGO Freedom House classified it as an “emerging democracy”, and it is the only country in its region considered at least “partly free” or higher on the group’s annual rankings
  • “Being a peaceful, democratic and developing state isn’t helping Somaliland gain international recognition,” said Hagi. “Somaliland is very quiet. It’s a peaceful place. The international community doesn’t really care about a peaceful place. When there is a problem in a country, the international community is always there – Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya. When there’s no problem there, there’s no point in coming to build a state.”
  • The world will continue to defend an abstract principle of territorial integrity in the face of the clear will of the people of Somaliland.
  • Looking at the decades of support given by the US to dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko, or considering the destabilising role of western oil companies in countries such as Nigeria, there’s a case to be made that if that’s what engagement with the outside world means for fragile African states, maybe Somaliland has been better off without it.
Ed Webb

Cash and contradictions: On the limits of Middle Eastern influence in Sudan - African A... - 1 views

  • In Sudan, the revolutionaries who overthrew President Omar al-Bashir and who continue to organise are well aware of the threat posed by neighbouring Arab countries. Protesters’ murals show the people rejecting the interfering hands of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of the most popular chants is “Victory or Egypt”, voicing activists’ determination not to succumb to a military counter-revolution as happened in their northern neighbour.
  • many Sudanese believe that the 3 June crackdown in which scores of protesters were killed only came after the green light from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt
  • In this struggle between the “Pax Africana” and Arab authoritarians, there’s no doubt that the democrats have the weaker hand. But not everything is going the Arab troika’s way.
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  • Sudan wasn’t following the script of Bahrain, where the demonstrators dispersed after a single crackdown, or Egypt, where the army took control through co-option and repression.
  • A major split between Saudi Arabia and the UAE was on show in July when the latter abruptly withdrew most of its forces from Yemen. No official explanation was given, but the decision was evidently not coordinated with Saudi Arabia, which remains bogged down in an intractable war. The UAE’s decision also shows it can be mercurial and that its policies towards the Horn of Africa may be less strategic and more opportunistic than commentators have assumed.
  • Egypt prides itself on understanding Sudan and sees Saudi Arabia and UAE as newcomers seeking influence solely by dispensing money. Egypt limited its demands on Sudan to handing over Egyptian Islamists in exile, suspending the deal for Turkey to develop a naval base, and ceding its territorial claim to the Halaib Triangle.
  • As Arab countries find themselves pulled in to the internal negotiations among the Sudanese, they will face another potential point of contention. Sudan doesn’t just need democracy, but peace. This means a role for the Islamists both in Khartoum and the provinces. For a decade, the custodian of the Darfur peace process has been Qatar, the troika’s arch rival, and it will be impossible to ignore Qatar’s role or that of Sudan’s diverse constituency of Islamists. Some of these dynamics are already playing out and reveal the lack of a common strategy among the Arab troika
  • After the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan lost 75% of its oilfields and an even greater proportion of its hard currency earnings. The following year, it literally struck gold and within a few years, gold was providing 40% of Sudan’s exports. As much as a third of it, however, came to be smuggled to Libya, Chad or directly by plane to the region’s biggest gold market in Dubai. The government in Khartoum, desperate to control the commodity, responded by using the Central Bank of Sudan as its sole buying agent, paying above the market price to gold traders and printing money to cover this outlay. Buying gold to convert to hard currency became the engine of Sudan’s inflation, which skyrocketed. By 2018, the price of essential commodities such as bread and fuel was so high relative to stagnant wages that the people across the country took to the streets to protest.
  • Hemedti. His RSF militia controls the gold mines and he personally owns a number of concessions. Through Sudan’s monetary policy, vast resources were transferred from wage earners in the centre of the country to militiamen and gold traders in the peripheries
  • Hemedti has also benefited massively from providing mercenaries, which may be Sudan’s second biggest source of foreign exchange today. A few months after the Saudis launched their war in Yemen in March 2015, Sudan volunteered to send troops. The first contingent was a battalion of the regular army, but then Hemedti struck a parallel deal to dispatch several brigades of RSF fighters. Within a year, the RSF comprised by far the biggest foreign contingent fighting in Yemen with at least 7,000 militiamen. Hemedti was paid directly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE for this service. He says he deposited $350 million in the Central Bank, but has not said how much he kept to himself for his own enrichment or political spending.
  • the Central Bank of Sudan has become an instrument for Hemedti’s political finance. And since becoming the central actor in Sudan’s ruling cabal in April, he has exerted an even tighter grip on gold production and exports while moving aggressively into other commercial areas. He has increased the RSF’s deployment in Yemen and sent a brigade to fight in Libya alongside General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt and the UAE, almost certainly in return for Emirati financial rewards. Hemedti is also expanding his family business conglomerate, the Al-Junaid companies, and running his political business on the basis of personally handing out cash to key constituents such as tribal chiefs, the police, and electricity workers.
  • none of this addresses Sudan’s macroeconomic crisis: its rampant inflation, rapidly increasing arrears on international debt, and ostracism from the dollar-based international financial system
  • Sudan’s Gulf patrons are bailing out the country with a $200 million monthly subsidy in cash and commodities, but the bailout amounts needed will quickly become too big even for the oil-rich Gulf States’ deep pockets
  • a clash between Hemedti’s political market logic and Sudan’s macroeconomy is looming.  The Sudanese technocrats associated with the FFC are well aware of this, which is why the economists called upon to put themselves forward for cabinet positions have been reluctant to agree. There is a race between Hemedti’s consolidation of power and a re-run of the economic crisis and protests that led to al-Bashir’s downfall.
  • as Sudan’s economic crisis deepens, they will have to turn to the IMF and western creditors for assistance
Ed Webb

AGSIW | UAE and the Horn of Africa: A Tale of Two Ports - 0 views

  • Along with the competition by outside players has come greater leverage for Horn of Africa countries, whose elites have long been adept at playing external patrons off one another. Ethiopia has to some degree succeeded in diluting Abu Dhabi’s reliance on its enemy, Eritrea, by supporting its plans for the Berbera port. In 2015, after losing access to Djibouti for military operations, the UAE constructed a base in the coastal Eritrean city of Assab, which has been vital to its operations in southern Yemen. By supporting the UAE’s military and commercial infrastructure plans in Somaliland, Ethiopia – the Horn of Africa’s largest and most powerful country – also contributed to the fracturing of Somalia by encouraging the de facto consolidation of Somaliland’s independence
  • Turkey’s soft power and popularity in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia is formidable, and was built on its early economic, diplomatic, infrastructure development, aid, and education involvement with the country
  • the UAE’s longer-term interests – as well as those of its competitors – are economic and strategic. The country is working to make itself an essential component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and secure Dubai’s Jebel Ali as the key logistics and trade hub linking Asia to Africa via DP World infrastructure, in the face of competition by a glut of new ports built by rivals with similar ambitions in Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and elsewhere along the Horn of Africa. DP World is involved in two other port projects in breakaway Somali states, as well as logistics infrastructure and ports projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Algeria, and Mali.
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  • The UAE is also trying to make the nature of its engagement more attractive for African governments and private sector partners: Rather than following the path of China, which has been perceived negatively as following a pseudo-colonial model in Africa, it is looking more toward the Turkish model. Investments such as DP World’s in Somalia or military bases come with packages of infrastructure investment, training, and education for workers and security forces, as well as inducements such as greater numbers of visas to the UAE. Food and water security continues to be an important interest for the UAE and other Gulf countries in East Africa. Emirati companies are seeking to avoid the political pitfalls that have caused past investments in land for food production to fail. Privately owned Al Dahra Holding, which owns farmland in Africa, claims to use a 50-50 sharing formula for produce with local companies and hires local workers.
  • the sudden abrogation of DP World’s Doraleh concession also lays bare the growing risks for the aspiring regional powers. The deepening fissures of Somali politics, in no small measure due to Middle East powers’ attempts at influence, also illustrate the risks for Horn of Africa societies, whose strategic location and economic potential paradoxically may lead them on a more complex – and possibly treacherous – path.
Ed Webb

Ethiopia: Exploiting the Gulf's scramble for the Horn of Africa | African Arguments - 0 views

  • the United Arab Emirates played a key behind-the-scenes role in facilitating the deal between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki. Both men met with Emirati leaders on several occasions before and during the reconciliation, and they have stayed in regular contact ever since.
  • After decades of disengagement, countries east of the Red Sea are scrambling to gain a greater footprint along the opposite coast. In response, states on the Horn such as Ethiopia are trying to leverage these rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics to enhance their own influence.
  • profound geopolitical shifts have now renewed the Middle East’s interest in the Horn and reinvigorated the strategic significance of countries west of the Red Sea. The two main reasons for this are the war in Yemen and deepening intra-Gulf rivalries. These factors have led three main groups to vie for influence in the Horn: the Arab axis (led by Saudi Arabia and UAE, but including Egypt and Bahrain); the Iran axis; and the Qatar-Turkey axis
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  • the UAE has agreed to provide Ethiopia with huge loans, investment and infrastructure support; it has upgraded Eritrea’s Assab port and constructed a military headquarters nearby from which it has launched offensives into Yemen; and its company DP World has secured contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the ports in Berbera and Bosaso, located in the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland respectively
  • Amidst the growing competition for influence among the Middle Eastern axes, Addis Ababa has managed to avoid taking sides – at least publicly – and leverage its geostrategic significance as the region’s hegemon to attract much-needed investment from several different partners.
  • Ethiopia has also positioned itself well to benefit from the complex scramble for Red Sea ports. The land-locked country relies on Djibouti for nearly 97% of its imports, but now has clear avenues for diversifying its routes to sea. The rapprochement with its neighbour should give it access to Eritrean ports, while the UAE’s development of Berbera in Somaliland will give it another crucial option. Ethiopia defied the Somali federal government’s objections when it supported the UAE’s deal with the semi-autonomous region, but in return it has acquired a 19% stake in the project.
Ed Webb

Ambiguous Ethiopia port deal fuels uncertainty over Somaliland statehood | Features | A... - 0 views

  • “The agreement is mutually beneficial, and Ethiopia will share military and intelligence experience with Somaliland, so the two states can collaborate on protecting joint interests,” Redwan Hussein, Abiy’s national security adviser, said at the event announcing the agreement. “To facilitate this, Ethiopia will establish a military base in Somaliland as well as a commercial maritime zone.”
  • the billions Djibouti is believed to charge Ethiopia annually in port fees has had it exploring alternatives in Sudan, Somaliland and Kenya since the mid-2000s.
  • In 2017, Ethiopia acquired shares in Berbera port as part of a deal involving Emirati logistics management company DP World to expand the port and turn it into a lucrative trade gateway catering to the needs of 119 million Ethiopians. At the time, Somalia denounced the deal as illegal. Ethiopia did not follow through on commitments and eventually lost its stake by 2022.
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  • Under the governments of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Hailemariam and Somali President Siad Barre, both countries supported rebel factions in each other’s countries, which would go on to weaken and eventually lead to the overthrow of both leaders by 1991.
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