Somaliland offers US military access to coast, seaport, and airfield

US war ship off the coast of Somalia

Somaliland, an administrative district of Somalia, has offered the U.S. military use of a seaport and airfield overlooking strategic maritime routes in exchange for help with its hope of seceding from Somalia and becoming an internationally recognized UN member state. 

The problem with Somaliland inviting the US military to use its coast, its port, and an airfield is that no region within an internationally recognized UN member state has the authority to invite the military of a foreign power onto its territory. According to the UN Charter, this is a violation of national sovereignty, the first principle of international law. However, no one has yet taken Somaliland’s offer to the UN Security Council, which has legal authority to stop it. (Which is not to say that the US commonly respects its legal authority.)

Somaliland has 528,700 miles of some of the most geostrategic coastline in the world, at the mouth of the Red Sea, and on the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. It sits across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen and  the rest of the Arabian Sub-continent, and the Straits of Hormuz.  

Some percentage of Somaliland’s population want to secede and believe that the U.S. will back their desire for statehood in exchange for the miliary use of their critical coastline and waters. Somalia opposes the secession. 

Earlier this week, a Taiwanese ship arrived on the coast off Somaliland to deliver 150,000 doses of its domestically produced coronavirus vaccines.  Reuters reported that the Taiwanese officials who arrived were met by the Foreign Minister and Taiwan’s “de facto ambassador.” Ambassador is a term reserved for the representative of one nation state to another, so this implied that Somaliland is a de facto state and should be officially recognized as an independent nation state. Only 15 nations recognize Taiwan itself as a nation state, and a two-thirds majority of the 193 is required to grant nation state to Somaliland, Taiwan or any other state aspiring to internationally recognized, UN member state status.  

In a move that surprised and upset Somalians and other anticolonial, peace, and justice activists in the Horn, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed allegedly upgraded the Ethiopian Consul in Somaliland to “Ambassador.” Such encouragement of secession risks breaking apart the Tripartite Alliance for regional cooperation between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, which has caused Washington great unease.

If the U.S. were to deploy troops, navy ships, and military hardware to the coast of Somaliland, they would further militarize an already tense and hyper-militarized region with hot wars underway in both Ethiopia and Yemen.

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