The Republic of Somaliland welcomes the establishment of the Task Force on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on 4 April 2019. This initiative,which aims, among other objectives, to ‘develop a common position to protect the security and economic interests in the region’, at long last recognises the strategic importance of Red Sea to the peace and prosperity of the Horn, and provides a platform for participatory diplomatic and political engagement from all regional actors to positively benefit from historic change sweeping ourterritories.
However, Somaliland, despite being a major stakeholder in Red Sea governance, regrets the lack of consultation and inclusivity which it was afforded within the process behind the initiation and formulation of the Task Force. At the same time,it remains unclear what role, if any, the Task Force envisions for Somaliland. The Government of Somaliland believes that any initiative to coordinate a response to changing Red Sea environs that does not include Somaliland in a meaningful way will lack the credibility, capability and representativeness necessary to contend with competing multinational cooperation efforts in these waters.The Republic of Somaliland has more coastline alongside the Red Sea (850 kilometers) than any other IGAD member state. Through a longstanding commitment to internal peace, stability and social cohesion, the Somaliland Government and people ensured that the territorial waters straddling this coastline have remained safe and secure, thus facilitating the safe passage of commercial shipping and naval traffic that is so vital to global trade.
The major upscaling and expansion of the Berbera Port in the coming years will make the city a key strategic hub within IGAD’s integrated and maritime-facing regional trade network. And, in cooperation with initiatives such as EUCAP, and in partnership with a variety of bilateral aid partners, including the UK funded modern operational management software systems (ASAAS),Somaliland is developing professional and modernised patrol, surveillance, rescue and response capabilities to guarantee the smooth operation of such maritime trade, in the face of threats such as piracy, organised crime and smuggling networks.
There is no escaping the fact that Somaliland has become a major diplomatic, political, economic and security force in the region. It’s border cooperation with neighbours, which spans issues of human trafficking, illicit trade in goods and border security, has been vital in protecting countries such as Ethiopia and Djibouti from the Horn’s trouble spots, where volatility, conflict and danger prevail.
Somaliland has borne the brunt of this burden, dedicating nearly half of its meager budget to insulating IGAD member states from conflict across the sea in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. In recognition of this reality, Somaliland entrusts that IGAD’s leadership and member states will make all efforts to include Somaliland in the Task Force, in a manner reflective of, and respectful towards, its importance and potential contribution. Somaliland is an independent and sovereign country, and any plan of action set forth by neighbouring governments that pertains to or impacts its territorial waters without the active participation and consent of our representatives is unacceptable to Somaliland.
Safeguarding the security and sustainability of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden concerns all countries that share these coastal waters, and Somaliland supports multilateral approaches to our common challenges and opportunities. However, Somalilandwill not recognize endeavours that exclude legitimate stakeholders based on arbitrary, irrelevant or discriminatory criteria.Somaliland looks forward to any cooperation that actively contributes to the security and prosperity of this area, without compromising the sovereignty of any country.
Somaliland views its peace, stability and prosperity as intimately tied into that of the region as a whole, and will continue to work with IGAD and its member states on all matters and efforts in which shared interests can be pursued in an equal mutually beneficial manner.