Tai­wanese-So­ma­liland deal bad for Africa

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION - DAVID MONYAE Monyae is the di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Africa-China Studies at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg

BIZARRELY, Tai­wan has es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions with So­ma­liland – a semi-desert ter­ri­tory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden. Iron­i­cally, So­ma­liland it­self isn’t recog­nised by any na­tion in Africa.

Tai­wan was pre­vi­ously aban­doned by al­most all African coun­tries, be­sides the King­dom of Eswa­tini.

So­ma­liland emerged from So­ma­lia’s civil war that ended Jaalle Mo­hamed Siad Barre’s dic­ta­tor­ship in 1991.

More im­por­tantly, Taipei’s provoca­tive ma­noeu­vre is bound to in­cense So­ma­lia, the AU and China.

For the lead­er­ship in Hargeisa, this un­wise move will alien­ate African coun­tries needed for their quest for state­hood.

Equally, Tai­wan’s move is tan­ta­mount to cre­at­ing an­i­mos­ity with So­ma­lia and the AU coun­tries that it seeks sup­port from in or­der to par­tic­i­pate in im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional bod­ies such as the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The Taipei-Hargeisa al­liance comes amid the back­drop of es­ca­lat­ing diplo­matic ten­sions in cross-strait re­la­tions as well as be­tween China and the US.

This diplo­matic ma­noeu­vre by un­recog­nised ac­tors on the con­ti­nent poses enor­mous chal­lenges.

First, it brings inse­cu­rity to the volatile Horn of Africa. For dif­fer­ent rea­sons, many ac­tors con­verge on this dis­puted ter­ri­tory of So­ma­liland. The Port of Ber­bera re­mains a strate­gic point of en­try for the Mid­dle East, com­pris­ing Saudi Ara­bia, Ye­men, the UAE and Qatar.

Sec­ond, the for­mer colo­nial pow­ers in Europe, es­pe­cially Bri­tain, France and Italy, per­ceive So­ma­liland and the rest of the re­gion as a ma­jor source of mi­grants pour­ing into Europe.

Third, the US, on the other hand, sees So­ma­liland through the prism of its war on ter­ror. As Wash­ing­ton piv­ots to Asia with a fo­cus on slow­ing the rise of China, it wel­comes Tai­wan’s ad­ven­tures in So­ma­liland.

The Tai­wanese move in Africa wors­ens the is­land’s re­la­tions with main­land China. It takes place at a time when Bei­jing is deal­ing with end­less dis­putes over bor­ders and is­lands in the South China Sea.

Al­though Tai­wan and So­ma­liland’s sovereign­ties are not recog­nised by Wash­ing­ton, it sur­pris­ingly is­sued a con­grat­u­la­tory note on the newly es­tab­lished re­la­tions.

As ex­pected, Bei­jing re­sponded by stat­ing: “Such ac­tiv­i­ties re­main il­le­gal and will never be recog­nised by the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China… There is one China in the world. Tai­wan is part of China and the gov­ern­ment of the PRC is the sole le­gal gov­ern­ment rep­re­sent­ing the whole of China.”

The im­pli­ca­tions for Tai­wanese in­volve­ment in So­ma­liland are dire for Africa. So­ma­liland will be­come a hot spot for the emerg­ing New Cold War be­tween the US and China.

The Gulf of Aden will at­tract more for­eign forces, com­pli­cat­ing po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics in the Horn of Africa. As it stands, Ethiopia, the main an­chor for peace and se­cu­rity in the re­gion, re­mains un­sta­ble.

As So­ma­lia sta­bilises, it will heighten its quest for the uni­fi­ca­tion of ter­ri­to­ries it con­sid­ers its own. There­fore, Taipei and Hargeisa ought to be care­ful in their pre­ma­ture diplo­matic re­la­tions. They both have more to lose in play­ing global gi­ants off in their quest for recog­ni­tion.

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