Ethiopia and the Gulf Crisis: The shifting regional power balance conundrum

    Ethiopia’s move to replace the United Arab Emirates in a strategic port in Djibouti is testament to the country’s commitment to hegemony in the Horn of Africa.

    Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, was in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this month to hold talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. According to media reports, there were several items on the 42-year-old Ethiopian leader’s official agenda: Finding a permanent solution to the recurrent interethnic conflict between members of the Dagodia clan, who are Kenyan-Somali pastoralists, and Ethiopia’s Boran Orama community in Moyale, a commercial center split between the two countries. At the same time, Dr. Ahmed hoped to promote deeper economic integration between Ethiopia and Kenya, along with the wider Horn of Africa. The true motivation behind Addis Ababa’s recent diplomatic efforts in the region, however, is to stop the imminent loss of its dominant role.

    Ethiopia has been slow to respond to the involvement of certain Gulf countries in the Horn of Africa primarily due to domestic instability, including interethnic tensions and widespread protests that resulted in Hailemariam Desalegn’s removal from power. Under Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Addis Ababa pursues a two-step policy to maintain its dominant role in the region.

    In light of the most recent developments, it is possible to conclude that Ethiopia has four main goals: It wants Eritrea to remain in political and economic isolation. It seeks to limit Egypt’s contacts with other countries in the region. It hopes to prevent any spillover of the Qatar crisis into the Horn of Africa. Finally, Addis Ababa takes all of those steps to maintain its dominance and hegemony in the region.

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