Somalia president nullifies agreement granting Ethiopia access to Red Sea in return for Somaliland recognition News
© WikiMedia (Garowe Online)
Somalia president nullifies agreement granting Ethiopia access to Red Sea in return for Somaliland recognition

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a law on Saturday nullifying a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government of Ethiopia and Somaliland. The MoU is said to give Ethiopia access to the Gulf of Aden in exchange for Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland’s independence from Somalia as well as Somaliland’s shares of equivalent value in Ethiopian Airlines.

In a post on X, President Mohamud said the signing of the law was an illustration of Somalia’s “commitment to safeguard our unity, sovereignty & territorial integrity as per international law.” Notably, Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 as a result of a civil war but has not yet received full recognition. It shares the eastern borders with Somalia. According to Somaliland’s Constitution, it is a democratic country with a multi-party system.

The MoU signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland on January 2, 2024, detailed wide-scope cooperation in social, economic, political and military fields. According to Somaliland’s President Muse Bihi Abdi, in the MoU, Ethiopia officially recognizes the Republic of Somaliland as an independent nation, while Somaliland grants naval and commercial sea access on lease to Ethiopia for 50 years. In a statement released on January 2, President Abdi called the MoU “a mutually beneficial agreement,” which “set a precedent as the first nation to extend international recognition of our country.” Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government pointed out in its January 3 statement that throughout history, Ethiopia has lost direct access to the sea and has been landlocked for the past 30 years. In the past five years, the government has been deliberating on ways to expand “sustainable and reliable ports and sea options that suit the status and growth of our country,” while the MoU with Somaliland “created an opportunity to cure the decades-old stress and anxiety of Ethiopians.” However, concerning recognizing Somaliland’s sovereignty, the statement only stated that the Ethiopian government would “make in-depth assessment towards taking a position.”

Somalia has condemned Ethiopia for signing a MoU that intrudes on Somalia’s territorial integrity. It has also urgently recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia “for consultation.” Mohamud expressed that a Somali territory cannot be exchanged for a stake in any company, such as Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Telecom, or GERD. 

The proposed deal also sparked controversy among the international community. The US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller outlined the US’s position on the issue by stating that the US recognizes Somalia in its 1960 borders and calls for dialogue between stakeholders. The UK reaffirmed its “full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia” and urged restraint and dialogue to resolve the issues peacefully. Öncü Keçeli, the Spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, also stated, “we wish for the disputes between Somalia and Somaliland to be resolved through direct negotiations and among Somalis.” The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressly rejected “any act violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia” following the signing of the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU.

Ethiopia has emphasized that “no party or country will be affected by this MoU. There is no broken trust nor is there any law trespassed. While this is the fact, it cannot be said that someone will not be offended, shocked and refrain from not attempting to destroy the positive progress.”