The Star Early Edition

Taiwanese-Somaliland deal bad for Africa

- 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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