President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh

MOGADISHU (Horndaily) – In a shocking revelation, an Africa Intelligence report has uncovered Djibouti’s covert operation to train Issa and Gadabursi rebels with the sinister aim of destabilizing Somaliland. Sources indicate that these rebels are undergoing rigorous military training at the Guestir military base, roughly 50 kilometers south of Ali-Sabieh.

The report suggests Djibouti’s calculated move to back these rebel groups is a direct response to a land dispute with Somaliland. The root of the conflict lies in Somaliland’s audacious decision to lease strategic Red Sea land to Ethiopia, infuriating Djibouti and threatening its economic interests. By supporting Issa and Gadabursi rebels, Djibouti is allegedly seeking to undermine Somaliland’s control over the Awdal region, a move that could escalate into a full-blown conflict.

Somaliland, a self-declared republic tirelessly pursuing international recognition, has fiercely condemned Djibouti’s provocative actions. President Muse Bihi Abdi has repeatedly accused Djibouti of harboring separatist rebels with the sole intent of plunging the western regions of Somaliland into chaos. Djibouti, however, has dismissed these accusations as baseless, further straining diplomatic relations.

The Berbera Port Agreement: A Game-Changer for Ethiopia and Somaliland

Central to this geopolitical drama is the strategic Port of Berbera in Somaliland. In recent years, Somaliland and Ethiopia have struck a pivotal agreement to develop and utilize the Berbera Port, aiming to transform it into a major hub for Ethiopian trade. This port, strategically located along the Red Sea, offers Ethiopia a vital alternative to the Port of Djibouti.

Ethiopia, a landlocked country with a burgeoning economy, is heavily reliant on Djibouti for its maritime trade. Over 90% of Ethiopia’s imports and exports currently pass through Djibouti, making it Ethiopia’s primary access point to the sea. The Ethiopian government pays Djibouti substantial fees for the use of its port facilities, amounting to approximately $1 billion annually. This hefty sum underscores Ethiopia’s strategic vulnerability and its dependency on Djibouti’s goodwill.

The Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement envisions a transformative future for the region. By developing the Port of Berbera, Ethiopia seeks to diversify its access to maritime routes, reducing its dependency on Djibouti and potentially lowering logistical costs. The deal includes significant investments in infrastructure, including the expansion of the port itself and the construction of a new road connecting Berbera to Ethiopia, facilitating smoother and faster transit of goods.

Landlocked Ethiopia: Strategic Imperatives and Economic Realities

Ethiopia’s landlocked status has long been a critical factor shaping its foreign policy and economic strategy. Since losing its Red Sea coastline following Eritrea’s independence in 1993, Ethiopia has been compelled to rely on neighboring countries’ ports for its maritime trade. This dependency has often placed Ethiopia in a precarious position, making it susceptible to the geopolitical dynamics and decisions of its neighbors.

The partnership with Somaliland and the development of Berbera Port represent a strategic effort by Ethiopia to mitigate these vulnerabilities. By gaining access to an alternative port, Ethiopia can enhance its economic resilience, foster regional trade, and spur economic growth. The Berbera corridor project is expected to boost trade not only between Ethiopia and Somaliland but also with other regional markets, potentially transforming the economic landscape of the Horn of Africa.

The Iron Grip of Guelleh: A Reign of Corruption and Oppression

Ismael Omar Guelleh, infamously known as IOG, has held an unyielding grip on Djibouti since May 1999. His 22-year rule has been marred by widespread corruption, egregious human rights abuses, and blatantly rigged elections. Let’s delve into the dark alleys of his regime and its devastating impact on Djibouti.

In 2010, Guelleh orchestrated the removal of term limits, paving the way for a third term in 2011. Since then, elections have turned into mere charades, with Guelleh claiming victory with over 97% of the vote, often running against handpicked opponents, including his own relatives. This removal of term limits has entrenched his dictatorial power.

Under Guelleh’s oppressive regime, human rights and civil liberties are trampled upon. Djibouti ranks an abysmal 176 out of 180 countries in press freedom, as reported by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House consistently rates Djibouti as “Not Free,” citing authoritarian rule. Detainees suffer inhumane prison conditions, fair trials are denied, and freedoms of the press, assembly, and association are severely restricted.

Despite Djibouti’s lucrative strategic port locations and income from foreign military bases, poverty remains shockingly rampant. The nation generates substantial revenue, yet its citizens languish in poverty. The poverty rate soared from 41% in 1996 to nearly 80% in 2012, and unemployment afflicts over 60% of the youth. Corruption allegations have relentlessly plagued Guelleh’s administration, stalling economic progress and deepening inequality.

A major point of contention fueling Djibouti’s aggressive stance is the potential rise of Somaliland’s Port of Berbera. Should Berbera become a pivotal port for Ethiopia, Djibouti stands to lose an astronomical $1 billion, a blow that could cripple its economy.

The Horn of Africa stands on the brink of turmoil as Djibouti’s audacious power play threatens to ignite a regional conflict, with the people of Somaliland caught in the crossfire.

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