Oodweyne News - Latest Somali News Update

Is Djibouti a Friend of Somaliland or a Foe??. Djibouti is Neighbour, Brother and but also a Competitor.

A heated debate and friction have recently erupted among Somaliland politicians who had different views concerning the future relationship that Somaliland could have with Djibouti in the wake of the potential emergence of Berbera Port as a new competitor with Djibouti who had maintained quasi-monopoly over Ethiopia’s maritime business over the past 60 years. Most of Somaliland opposition parties’ cadre and also some of the ruling party officials contended that Djibouti is jealous of the newcomer in the market and collaborating with neighbouring Somalia by placing obstacles on the way of the Berbera to develop into actual competitor with Djibouti in the future. Some of the guys even see Djibouti is an enemy. On the other hand, the pro-Djibouti camp contends that Djibouti is close ally and a Somaliland neighbour. They insist that the President of Somaliland has recently selected Djibouti for his inauguration visit, signifying the close relationship we have with Djibouti among our friends.




To me, the situation is more deep-rooted. On the one hand, we are fully aware that Djibouti would not naturally welcome the emergence of a new strong competitors. No shopkeeper would like to have a newcomer in the market with the same merchandise as his – that the norm of the trade. But the argument among the two camps also takes another dimension. The supporters of Djibouti have adopted the strategy of the old KABADHE IIDOOR (Isaaqi textile caravan merchants). They tend to prefer to maintain the relationship so long as we have interests with Djibouti and also so long as the other party did not explicitly come up with anything that would justify otherwise. This school adopted the tactics of traditional traders who are keen to maintain good relations with all parties despite having disagreements with the other parties over some other issues. On the other side of the equation, we have the Anti-Djibouti Camp who tend to adopt the strategy of an equally old Somali Countryside Nomads. They see relationships as black and white transactions. As far as this anti-Djibouti Camp is concerned, Djibouti could either be a friend or a foe – there is nothing in between.




This disparity of opinion remained me of an old story narrated by our elders: Way back in 1920+ a large Ogaden Caravan was plundered before they made their journey to Hargeisa. They lost everything but their lives and some saddleless beasts of burden (camels). Upon arriving at the town, they narrated their plight. The merchants of Hargeisa, at that time, had conducted an immediate meeting and concluded to supply the Ogaden guys (free of charge) with all the merchandize they originally sought in exchange of their looted goods (rice, tea, sugar, textile etc). The Hargeisa merchants had only one request from the Ogaden caravan owners: Convey to your people back home in Ogadenia that HARGEISA IS SAFE AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS. TODAY!! we need to convey the message that Berbera and the entire Somaliland is open for business so long as the “Others” are willing to trade with us and exchange interests – no matter how small these interests are and no matter what other differences we have over other issues.




Finally, it is worth mentioning here the size of Horn of Africa maritime business is huge and both ports will thrive for decades to come – there is nothing to fight over. It is indeed a win-win situation for all – including Djibouti. In addition, it is also wise to remember that the longstanding interests that Hargeisa and Djibouti share outweigh the competition we could have over “Loading and Stevedoring of Ethiopian Goods”. We will be dealing with our Djibouti brethren so long as they are willing to exchange interests.




Hassan Abdi Yousuf

Head of Horn of Africa Economic Research Center

Hargeisa, Somaliland