North African nation Egypt is considering opening up a military base in Somaliland.
This coming just a year after reports emerged Russia had also looked at Horn of Africa nation as an option of setting up a base while the United States has also held the idea of moving its base to Somaliland should its current base in Djibouti become untenable due to the Chinese presence.
A delegation from Egypt met with Somaliland president Musa Bihi Abdi this week where the proposal of setting up a military base in north-west regions of the country was presented.
The Horn of Africa region has experienced a substantial increase in the number and size of foreign military deployments since 2001, especially in the past decade.
A wide range of regional and international security actors are currently operating in the Horn and the foreign military installations include land-based facilities (e.g. bases, ports, airstrips, training camps, semi-permanent facilities and logistics hubs) and naval forces on permanent or regular deployment.
The most visible aspect of this presence is the proliferation of military facilities in littoral areas along the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. China, France and the United States setting base in Djibouti.
According to a report by writer Neil Melvin on the foreign military presence in the Horn of Africa region, Egypt has not established military bases in the Horn of Africa but is a leading Red Sea power by virtue of its control of the Suez Canal.
Writes Melvin: “In recent years, Egypt has sought to increase its military spending, including in order to project military force into the Horn region.
“In January 2017, Egypt inaugurated a new headquarters in Safaga for its southern naval fleet command, covering the Red Sea and including the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is considered a strategic interest. The southern fleet has recently been strengthened with the acquisition of modern warships, notably an amphibious assault ship.
The report states that as part of the Saudi Arabian-coalition, Egypt has also been supporting military actions in the conflict in Yemen. This has primarily involved the deployment of ships to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait as part of the naval blockade of Yemeni ports, notably to counter Iranian vessels.
A military base in Somaliland will not only be strategic for Egypt’s interests in the Horn but also offer Somaliland an opportunity to push the North African superpower to offer it international recognition it seriously needs.
A recognition from Egypt will open doors for the Arab League to build a stronger relationship with Somaliland whose democracy and peaceful stature is more attractive at the Horn.
During the meeting, Egypt and Somaliland agreed on the exchange of high-level representation offices in Hargeisa and Cairo.
Ethiopian government meanwhile is not amused with Egypt plans to set up a military base in Somaliland. This is because Egypt locked horns with Ethiopia over the Nile River dispute.
It is believed that a new alliance (between Egypt and Somaliland) appears to be Egypt’s revenge on Somalia after it sided with Ethiopia.
Most Arab League states have sided with Egypt in the dispute over the Nile with Ethiopia who has received support from Somalia.
Ethiopia confirmed that it has proceeded with filling the Grand Renaissance Dam before reaching an agreement with Egypt.
Egypt has previously warned that filling and operating the dam without an agreement will heighten tensions as it will provoke crisis and destabilize the troubled region.
BY ODINDO AYIEKO