By ISSG Staff
Somalia has strongly condemned a controversial deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway state of Somaliland, labeling it as an “aggression.” The move has intensified regional tensions, prompting Somalia to recall its ambassador to Ethiopia and seek international support against what it deems a “blatant assault” on its sovereignty.
The contentious memorandum of understanding, announced in Addis Ababa, comes after recent efforts by Mogadishu to resume dialogue with Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Although Somaliland operates with a degree of autonomy, seeking full statehood, it lacks international recognition, and Mogadishu vehemently opposes its secession.
Details of the Deal
The “historic” deal involves Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi. It grants Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera and a leased military base. In return, Somaliland expects formal recognition from Ethiopia, a claim yet to be confirmed by Addis Ababa. The deal raises questions about its implications for the geopolitical dynamics of the Horn of Africa.
Somalia’s Strong Response
The Somalia cabinet denounced the agreement as a “blatant assault on the independence, sovereignty, and unity” of Somalia. It announced the recall of its ambassador to Ethiopia and urged the international community to intervene. Somalia seeks urgent meetings at the UN Security Council and the African Union to address what it perceives as Ethiopia’s “aggression and interference” in its sovereignty.
Historical Context and Regional Concerns
Somalia and Ethiopia have a history of stormy relations and territorial disputes, having fought two wars in the late 20th century. Prime Minister Hamza Barre emphasized Somalia’s commitment to defending its land through legal means, while President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud warned of potential repercussions, including a possible revival of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab.
Ethiopia’s Maritime Access and Security Concerns
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, has sought access to the Red Sea, a vital maritime route crucial for its economic growth. The deal includes the establishment of an Ethiopian military base on the Red Sea, with Somaliland leasing a portion of its sea access for 50 years. This move could significantly impact regional security dynamics.
International Reactions and Concerns
The international community’s response remains unclear, but Somalia’s appeal for support indicates its desire to garner diplomatic backing. Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who mediated recent talks between Somalia and Somaliland, has expressed the region’s need to avoid “nests of conflict.”
As Somalia rejects the Ethiopia-Somaliland deal as an act of aggression, the situation unfolds against a backdrop of longstanding regional tensions and historical conflicts. The geopolitical implications of this agreement and its potential impact on the fragile stability in the Horn of Africa raise concerns that demand careful international scrutiny and diplomatic intervention.