The regional powers seeking influence and control over Somalia are part of a framework that is worrying Somalis about some foreign governments’ role in Somalia’s instability. In some ways, the competition over Somalia is due to economic interests. The presidents of Somalia and Egypt had discussed the development of Egypt Air in the country where direct flights between Mogadishu and Cairo are planned (Horn Observer, 2017). The Ethiopians would fear the Somali administration that is influenced by Egypt because the shift in regional power would focus on concentrating resources between Egypt and Somalia. This could lead to regional issues between Egypt and Somalia on one side, and Ethiopia on the other.
The recent arrest of a suspected ONLF member was followed by the release of the prisoner to the Ethiopian government. Therefore, the suspect’s arrest by the Galmudug regional police was a recognition that Al Shabaab and other rebel forces are operating or seek to operate in Somalia due to Egyptian influence in the country.
Based on the sources of information, the arrest was timely but largely coincidental as the arrest occurred two weeks prior to the transfer to the interim capital of the Somalia state of Galmudug (Horn Observer). The detention center housing of the ONLF rebel by the Somali National Intelligence Agency in Mogadishu seemed to be a time lapse to prepare for the deal with Ethiopia to facilitate the transfer. The government of Ethiopia considers the ONLF to be a terror group and therefore was agreeing to receive a member of this group in exchange for a Somali prisoner. Overall, the Somali Intelligence Agency had a large role in leading to the detention of Abdihakin Sheikh Muse by facilitating the detention holding after the arrest.
The presence of Egypt in Somalia is of concern for Ethiopia government in other ways. The government of Ethiopia and the government of Egypt are in contention over the Nile River. This is because the government of Ethiopia had built a damn on the Blue Nile, which is in opposition to the stance by the Egyptian government. The Egyptian government believes Ethiopia does not have the right of way or ownership of the Nile to build the dam. Ethiopia built the dam to produce electricity. The influence of Egypt in Somalia could lead to further regional issues regarding regional resources of water, such as with the Nile River. The concern is that Somalia will begin to favor the stances of Egypt over Ethiopia and therefore isolate Ethiopia with regard to usage of regional resources.
Th Somali president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s main position for Somalia is to identify and remain directed toward providing security, corruption and reconciliation (Africa News, 2017). Additionally, Famajo feels the Somalis are no longer divided and need security. This would indicate that increased security in Somalia would identify the rebel groups operating in the country. The arrest would have come from the increased security that was identified by government as part of the effort of the security efforts.
The repercussions of the arrest seemingly would benefit Al Shabaab as there would be less likelihood of Al Shabaab surrendering in Somalia. By handing over prisoners to the government of Ethiopia, the rebel groups would identify Somalia government as cooperating with Ethiopia in cross border matters. This could allow Al Shabaab to continue operating in Somalia and not considering surrender or negotiation as was done previously in the past. This could also lead toward further isolation of Egypt and Somalia from Ethiopia if these groups continue to operate in Somalia and are not surrendering or not leaving the country. The identification of these groups by the government of Ethiopia will continue to lead to imprisonment of group members operating in Somalia.
The governments of Egypt and Ethiopia will likely continue pursuing opposite agendas on regional issues, especially Somalia. It is vitally important that the Somali Federal Government a strong neutral position and implements national decisions based on the best Somali strategic interests. Otherwise, Somalia will continue facing push-and-pull foreign policy forces that ensure the country continues making national decisions protecting foreign interest, and at the expense of Somalia’s own national interests and well-being.
Africa News. (2017). [Live] Horn of Africa Leaders Join Somalia at President Farmajo’s Investiture. Retrieved from http://www.africanews.com/2017/02/22/live-horn-of-africa-leaders-join-somalia-at-president-farmajo-s-investiture//
Horn Observer. (2017). Somalia Hands Over ONLF Rebel Commander to Ethiopia. Retrieved from http://hornobserver.com/articles/533/Somalia-President-on-a-2-day-Official-Visit-to-Egypt
Horn Observer. (2017). Somalia President on a 2-day Official Visit to Egypt. Retrieved from http://hornobserver.com/articles/533/Somalia-President-on-a-2-day-Official-Visit-to-Egypt