What to Know:
Somalia’s federal government has rejected a port deal between Ethiopia and the Somali breakaway region of Somaliland, calling it an “act of aggression” as officials call for a response.
What is Somaliland:
Somaliland is a self-declared, de facto independent state that makes up the northern most territory of Somalia along the Gulf of Aden, which declared its independence following the overthrow of President Siad Barre by rebel forces in 1991. While Somaliland operates with its own democratically elected government, state institutions, and military forces, it has not gained international recognition as an independent state.
Somaliland has been able to operate with autonomy in some capacity, however, Mogadishu has rejected its independence. It also maintains informal diplomatic relations with some countries, such as Ethiopia.
What is the Deal:
Yesterday, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland, which “shall pave the way to realize the aspiration of Ethiopia to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to seaports. It also strengthens their security, economic and political partnership. Furthermore, the Memorandum of Understanding also indicates the pathway to bolster their political and diplomatic relations.”
BREAKING: Ethiopia, Somaliland sign “historic” agreement that will pave the way for Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea, @AbiyAhmedAli’s office announced. The Memorundum of Understanding signed by @AbiyAhmedAli and @bihi also strengthens the security, economic and political… pic.twitter.com/wmxcSjJHy3
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) January 1, 2024
In short, the deal allows for Ethiopia, a landlocked country, to have access to the Gulf of Aden through a leased naval base in the Somaliland port of Berbera. In return, Ethiopia will recognize Somaliland as independent and establish diplomatic ties in due time, according to Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi. Likewise, Somaliland would receive an unspecified stake in state-owned Ethiopian Airlines.
Somalia’s federal government has fully rejected the deal and has vowed to protect its national sovereignty.
The Somali cabinet said the deal is “null and void with no legal basis and Somalia will not accept it”, adding that “In response to this, the Somali government has recalled its ambassador in Ethiopia for consultation.” The cabinet also stated that it “considers this action as an aggression and… is an impediment to the good neighbourliness, peace and stability of the region which [is] already struggling with many challenges”.
Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre stated that “I want to assure you that we are committed to defending the country, we will not allow an inch of land, sea and skies to be violated.” He went on to say that “We will defend our land with any legal means possible. We must unite and forget about our differences to defend our land, integrity, and sovereignty.”
As a Government, we have condemned and rejected the illegal infringement of Ethiopia into our national sovereignty and territorial integrity yesterday. Not an inch of Somalia can or will be signed away by anybody. Somalia belongs to the Somali people. This is final. pic.twitter.com/XPVwHZ4pvv
— Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (@HassanSMohamud) January 2, 2024
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud posted to X that “As a Government, we have condemned and rejected the illegal infringement of Ethiopia into our national sovereignty and territorial integrity yesterday. Not an inch of Somalia can or will be signed away by anybody. Somalia belongs to the Somali people. This is final.”
While speaking during a security meeting on the matter, he added that “Somalia belongs to Somalis. We have always defended our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and we will assert our exclusive rights in accordance with international laws. We will protect every inch of our sacred land and not tolerate attempts to relinquish any part of it.”