In the midst of the current civil war in Ethiopia, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front accused Emirati drones that launched from Eritrean bases of bombing their forces in the rebel region against the central government in Addis Ababa.
These accusations coincided with Sudan hosting joint military maneuvers with Egypt, which, according to indications and observers, may appear as a threat to “deter” Addis Ababa, following the stalemate and stalled negotiations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
In contrast to the “suspicious” Emirati role in the Horn of Africa – which is considered an extension of the strategic depth of Egypt – Abu Dhabi has stoked fires that may extend their repercussions to include its allies in Riyadh, in addition to the transitional government in Khartoum.
Specialists in African affairs agreed – in separate statements to Al Jazeera Net – that the burning situation in the Horn of Africa and its direct contact with the crisis of the Ethiopian dam negotiations made the UAE in an embarrassing situation in front of its ally Egypt in light of the first’s participation in a war that was supposed to benefit Egypt, not Ethiopia. .
While observers have said that the Ethiopian civil war, may lead to an emergency confrontation between the two allies (Cairo and Abu Dhabi) in light of the contradictions of interests, which may impose a completely different regional political map in the near future.
Everyone complains about a state #UAE And Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed !!
Mr. Alola Solomon, Director of the “Gray House” Ethiopian Media Network, talks about involvement #Abu Dhabi In the bloody conflict going on in the region #Family North #Ethiopia He says that it bombed Tigrinya villages with drones.
Oh God, no comment !! pic.twitter.com/IalGf8eq0W
– mohammed muusehassan (@ibnumusahasan) November 19, 2020
The game of interests
The Egyptian journalist specializing in African affairs, Rawda Ali Abdel Ghaffar, saw that the contradiction of interests between Egypt and the UAE imposes a political reality that no one will hide, which is that the balance of power has changed in the African and Arab region, as other countries have gained regional and international weight at the expense of Cairo.
Rawda warned that if Egypt was not aware of the factors of its strength and its strategic weight in the region, the balance would naturally favor the stronger side.
She said that the UAE does not directly target Egypt, but rather is a game of interests, albeit at the expense of its allies, noting that the current unrest in Egypt and the army’s preoccupation with political transformations has led to a decline in the Egyptian role in Africa and internationally, matters that have made the regime falter in managing several files, including The Renaissance Dam and weak influence on its allies.
Regarding the Emirati support for the Ethiopian government, in the war against the Tigrayans, Rawda explained that this support is not new, as the UAE has recently sought to win Ethiopia as a strategic ally in the Horn of Africa, whether with economic, military or political support.
As for the dimensions of the Emirati role in the Horn of Africa, according to Rawda, it comes under the pretext of eliminating the Houthis in Yemen, but it accelerated the consolidation of Abu Dhabi’s feet in the region to control the navigation routes in the Bab al-Mandab strait near the Eritrean port of Assab, under the pretext of confronting Turkish influence in the region .
She added that the Horn of Africa is a region that holds many promising opportunities and power factors that make it a fertile ground for Abu Dhabi investments, noting that these opportunities made the UAE not delay in supporting a huge project such as the Renaissance Dam project, and to gain Ethiopia as a strong ally that will prove its feet, not only in the region, but also in All Africa.
Arab alliances disintegrate
In turn, the Sudanese researcher in strategic and international affairs, Abu Bakr Abd al-Rahman, went on to say that in light of the absurd contradiction in Abu Dhabi’s dealings with its allies, chiefly Cairo, Riyadh and Khartoum, the region may be facing open options, the lowest of which is the disintegration of existing alliances, the most extreme of which is the comprehensive regional war.
The Sudanese researcher explained that the current Ethiopian conflict is not subject to the logic of a clear equation, especially after the regional alignment that began to take shape with the entry of Abu Dhabi into the theater of the ethnic conflict, the Ethiopian Federal.
Referring to the Emirati role in shackling Egypt in the Horn of Africa, Abd al-Rahman said that the UAE, as a strategic ally of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, was the one who categorically rejected Egypt’s strategic ambition to establish a military base on the island of Noura (near the Eritrean coast and about 750 km from the Renaissance Dam) “.
He attributed this to “so that the Egyptian base would not be a threat to the Renaissance Dam, in which Abu Dhabi invested significant sums, in addition to its competition in the geostrategic positioning on the Red Sea,” and he expected Cairo to be forced to deal with the Ethiopian crisis based on its higher strategic interests.
The Emirati dangers to the Horn of Africa are not limited to Egypt, but also affect Sudan and Saudi Arabia, according to Abdul Rahman, who explained that the UAE’s support for Afriqi, who aspires to mix the cards with Sudan in the triangle of borders between Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, may push the Sudanese leadership calculated in its alliance with Abu Dhabi To change its position and view of the war, because it is well aware that what is being targeted by these rapid developments is its limits.
He added that eastern Sudan is a candidate for the eruption of tribal conflict again along the states of Gedaref, Kassala and Port Sudan, due to the regional agenda supported by Abu Dhabi and Asmara.
He also pointed out that the Tigrayan war put Abu Dhabi in front of a difficult test to torpedo the peace agreement of its friend Riyadh signed between Asmara and Addis Ababa in 2018 in Jeddah, explaining that the complexity of the situation in Ethiopia may end in the annihilation of the federal experiment, which will not stop its impact on Tigray only, but will accelerate the destruction of the coalition Between Addis Ababa and Asmara.
In turn, the Eritrean journalist writer Abdul Qadir Muhammad Ali attributed the emergence of Abu Dhabi’s active role in recent years in the Horn of Africa to several reasons, on top of which is the desire to expand its political influence in that sensitive region of Gulf security overlooking a vital waterway (the Red Sea) For global trade. “
Ali said that the UAE is seeking to obtain economic gains related to the so-called blue economy (the marine environment), and control, through the Dubai Ports Company, over the management of ports in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
He added that the UAE seeks to limit the great influence of Abu Dhabi’s regional opponents – Doha and Ankara – in the region, which intensified with the outbreak of the Gulf crisis and the blockade of Qatar in June 2017.
The Eritrean writer emphasized that one of the UAE’s motives is to confront the growing Iranian influence in the region, especially with Tehran’s endeavor through the Houthis to control Bab al-Mandab, which culminated in the Emirati-Saudi war on Yemen.
He pointed out that among the reasons for the Emirati presence in the Horn of Africa, The intersection of the Emirati efforts with the new US strategy towards Africa during the era of President Donald Trump, and its attempt to stop the Chinese expansion in the continent, and block the way for the Chinese Belt and Road project from its entrance in East Africa.
In this regard, he referred to the UAE’s attempt to develop its relations with Somaliland and its failure to seize the Doraleh port in Djibouti, and the close multi-faceted alliance with Eritrea, which included the establishment of a military base, and crowned the sponsorship of the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia 2018, where Asmara and Addis Ababa were transformed. To the focal point of the Emirati project in the region.
Regarding the reasons for Abu Dhabi’s support for Addis Ababa at the expense of Cairo, the Eritrean writer explained that the UAE sought to preserve the political influence it had painstakingly accumulated in Ethiopia, after the arrival of Abiy Ahmed to the prime minister with his liberal orientations, as well as the exclusion of the Tigrayan front with closely related Marxist roots. In Beijing.
He added that Abu Dhabi diversified forms of political and economic support for Addis Ababa, and it seems that it worked to improve Egyptian-Ethiopian relations at the beginning of Abiy Ahmed’s rule, and this was evident in his famous visit to Cairo when he pledged that the dam would not harm Egyptian interests.
As for the reasons for Abu Dhabi’s preference not to interfere in the dam file in favor of Egypt, Abdul Qadir Muhammad Ali attributed it to its desire to avoid the negative impact on its relations with Addis Ababa, and the sensitivity of the dam issue and its national symbolism for Ethiopia.
He pointed out that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh consider completing the dam a direct interest associated with major investments in food security for each of them in Ethiopia and Sudan.
He ruled out that the contradictions of interests between Egypt and the UAE in the Horn of Africa would impose a completely different regional political map from what is currently the case, attributing this to the intertwining of files and common interests between the Egyptian and Emirati regimes.