In July 2020, Taiwan and Somaliland announced their intention to establish reciprocal representative offices to broaden their communication with the outside world. A diplomatic victory for both sides, it also represents a paradigm shift that will have repercussions for the Horn of Africa and Somaliland and for major world powers, especially China, which has rejected the move. Meanwhile, the USA has welcomed diplomatic engagement between Taiwan and Somaliland, leading some observers to think that the offices will be established under the auspices of the USA, which is potentially risky for all parties in the region, given the divergent stances on the agreement. The move could result in a transformation in Chinese policy toward the Horn of Africa in particular, and toward Africa in general, during the coming period.
Indications of interest between Taiwan and Somaliland
Regional and international positions
Taiwan’s attempt to revive its diplomatic presence in Africa by signing a reciprocal representation agreement has sparked a wave of different reactions. China and Somalia have condemned the move, in their continuing efforts to prevent the two countries from seceding, whereas Washington has welcomed it.
Federal Government of Somalia: In a statement issued on July 4, 2020, the Somali presidential office said that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo) denounced Taiwan’s violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that he had met with the Chinese ambassador to emphasize Mogadishu’s commitment to the One China Policy. This approach is based on Somalia’s firm official position regarding its territorial integrity and the complete rejection of Somaliland’s independence from the country, as demonstrated by the results of the recent Djibouti meetings between Somalia and Somaliland.
China: Beijing has always maintained that Taiwan is part of its territory, and uses its political, diplomatic, and economic influence to isolate Taiwan from the international community. It therefore rejected the agreement signed between Somaliland and Taiwan, accusing the latter of attempting to undermine Somalia’s territorial integrity and violate its sovereignty. Beijing has also opposed the establishment of reciprocal representative offices, and has intensified its meetings with Somaliland representatives in order to frustrate relations between Somaliland and Taiwan. It also tried to tempt Hargeisa into reneging on its agreement with Taipei, with offers of a representative office for Beijing in Somaliland and an aid and development package including road, airport, and other infrastructure. Somaliland, however, rejected the conditional offer.
USA: Although Washington does not recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan or Somaliland, it unexpectedly issued a statement hailing the recent diplomatic relations achieved between the two parties as a tremendous step, and welcomed Taiwan’s consolidated involvement in east Africa. This comes against the backdrop of continuing US efforts to boost the number of Taiwan’s allies in the international community and to persuade States not to switch allegiance to China. Meanwhile, relations between the two super powers are deteriorating as the USA ratchets up political, economic, and diplomatic pressure on China.
Assessment of potential risks
Future Chinese influence in the region
 “Taiwan strengthens ties with Somaliland”, Emirates Business, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2Cax2L6.
 The UK, Denmark, Ethiopia, Kenya, Turkey, Djibouti, Canada, the EU, and the UN all have representative offices in Somaliland.
 Ben Blanchard, “Outflanked by China in Africa, Taiwan eyes unrecognized Somaliland”, Reuters, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2PAaLJH.
 “Taiwan Pledges to Establish an Advanced Maritime Communication System in Somalia”, New Somalia, December 16, 2015. Available at: https://bit.ly/2F3Jk96.
 “Somaliland & Taiwan Discuss Corporation [sic] in Higher Education”, Somaliland Standard, July 15, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3iqnomL.
 “Somaliland: Taiwan Treats Local Universities with Computers”, Somaliland Sun, August 27, 2016. Available at: https://bit.ly/3af0WdK.
 “Taiwan Offers Scholarships to Somaliland Students”, Somaliland Standard, July 17, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/33JbujV.
 “Taiwan Medical Team Arrive in Somaliland”, Somaliland Standard, January 30, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3fEBrng.
 “Taiwan Venturing Into East Africa Via Somaliland”, East African Business Week News (EABW), July 3, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2DHEwFO.
 “Taiwan Sends Medical Aid to Somaliland to Fight the Coronavirus”, Somaliland Standard, June 28, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2PASQT8.
 “Closer Ties with Somaliland Will Benefit Both Sides”, Somaliland Standard, July 2, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2PzPZK9.
 “Somaliland: 5 Doctors Will Travel to Taiwan in order to Attend Training”, Somaliland Standard, February 27, 2019. Available at: https://bit.ly/2PzEsuv.
 “Somaliland: Central Bank Governor Receives Taiwanese Delegation”, Somaliland Standard, November 5, 2019. Available at: https://bit.ly/3gGjmX8.
 “Closer Ties with Somaliland Will Benefit Both Sides”, ibid.
 Odindo Ayieko, “Taiwan Finalizes Plan To Establish Military Base In Somaliland”, EABW News, July 6, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3ij3w5g.
 “Somaliland: Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Speaks About Relations with Taiwan”, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, July 20, 2020. Available at: https://unpo.org/article/21994.
 David Pilling and Kathrin Hille, “Taiwan and Somaliland Risk China’s Ire with Bilateral Ties”, Financial Times, London, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://on.ft.com/2PsfXPE.
 Adrianna Zhang, “Somalia: Taiwan-China Diplomatic Competition Comes to Somaliland”, All Africa, July 7, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3kl2WWk.
 “Somaliland: Isolated Taiwan Joins the Anti-SL Recognition Wagon”, Somaliland Sun, September 19, 2015. Available at: https://bit.ly/3klNsS9.
 “Somalia: Taiwan Slams Chinese Criticism of Somaliland Ties”, All Africa, July 7, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2ERGa8b.
 Abdulkadir Khalif, “China Rejects Taiwan Bid for Diplomatic Relations with Somaliland”, The East African, July 5, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2XDqkVv.
 Brian Hioe, “Taiwan to Set Up Representative Office in Somaliland”, New Bloom, July 6, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3kgBo4x.
 “Breaking – Somaliland is Preparing to Recognize Taiwan”, Somali Chronicle, August 3, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3ij2kP5.
 Paul Antonopoulos, “Taiwan & Somaliland to Open Representative Offices”, Belt & Road News, July 9, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/30z1lEt.
 Thomas J. Shattuck, “Taiwan Finds an Unexpected New Friend in Somaliland”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/30AUryF.
 “The Djibouti Near Miss and the New Taiwan Connection”, Somali Chronicle, July 11, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/30znXVs.
 “Why Would Taiwan Need a Base in Somaliland?”, Somaliland Sun, July 11, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/30GJnjD.
 Eric Olander, “Both China and Somalia Equally Upset about Taiwan’s Entreaties with Somaliland”, The China Africa Project, July 6, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3ijGBH2.
 Nick Aspinwall, “Taiwan Throws a Diplomatic Curveball by Establishing Ties With Somaliland”, The Diplomat, July 10, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2DurICR.
 “President Bihi Rejected Chinese Delegation’s Offer of Conditional Development Package”, Somali Chronicle, August 6, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3fE4jfg.
 Derek Otieno, “White House Happy with Somaliland, Taiwan Diplomatic Relationship”, PD Online, July 16, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/30BEvMD.
 “Taiwan Strengthens Ties with Breakaway Somaliland”, The Japan Times, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2XFQd73.
 David Monyae, “Taiwanese-Somaliland Deal Bad for Africa”, Independent Online (IOL), July 15, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2PvqYjk.
 Eric Olander, “Taiwan-Somaliland Deal Sparks Debate about Taipei’s Presence in Africa”, The China Africa Project, July 17, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/31xL0iA.
 “Irked China and Somalia React Negatively to Somaliland Taiwan Ties”, Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MENAFN), July 4, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/3aeW4oY.
 “Geopolitical Implications of Somaliland-Taiwan Diplomatic Relations”, Somaliland Current, July 19, 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/33GUmvo.
 David Monyae, ibid.
Liran Antebi | 04 May 2021
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