In a firm response to Ethiopia’s controversial deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland, Somalia declared its commitment to defend its territory using “any legal means.”
The nation recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia and denounced the agreement as a stark violation of its sovereignty, urging the international community to support its stance.
This deal, announced just days after Somalia’s central government agreed to resume discussions with the separatist northern region, has sparked outrage in Mogadishu. Somaliland, seeking independence from Somalia since 1991, remains unrecognised internationally and fiercely contested by Mogadishu.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland’s leader, Muse Bihi Abdi, grants Ethiopia access to Berbera’s Red Sea port and includes the establishment of a military base.
The Somali cabinet condemned the move, asserting Somaliland’s integral role within Somalia under its constitution, dismissing the agreement as baseless and unacceptable.
Somalia recalled its ambassador in Ethiopia for consultations and appealed to global entities such as the United Nations, African Union, Arab League, and East African IGAD to support its sovereignty and compel Ethiopia to abide by international laws.
Prime Minister Barre, addressing the nation, urged unity, stressing the nation’s commitment to defending its land and sovereignty within legal boundaries.
Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Get the latest in African news delivered straight to your inbox
While Ethiopia has not yet responded to Somalia’s reaction, the deal signifies Ethiopia’s pursuit of access to the Red Sea, vital for its trade, previously limited since Eritrea’s independence in 1993.
Berbera port, strategically positioned at the Gulf of Aden’s southern coast, presents an opportunity for Ethiopia’s economic access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
Ethiopia’s access includes a leased military base on the Red Sea, although the timeline for the agreement’s implementation remains uncertain.
In 2018, Ethiopia acquired a 19-percent stake in the Berbera port, managed by Dubai-based DP World, holding a 51-percent stake, while Somaliland retains 30 percent ownership.
While the recent talks between Somalia and Somaliland, mediated by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, were welcomed by IGAD and the British embassy, Somaliland’s quest for statehood continues to face international disregard, leaving the region economically marginalised and politically unsettled.