Days after defaulting payment of sovereign debt of $33 million “coupon” payment on its only international government bond thus becoming Africa’s third default in as many years, Ethiopia yesterday signed an initial agreement with Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland to use its Red Sea port of Berbera.
And in a swift response, today, Somalia’s cabinet will hold an emergency meeting to discuss a pact Ethiopia signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland, allowing the former to use the Red Sea port of Berbera.
Yesterday evening, Somalia has suspended diplomatic ties with Ethiopia after Addis Ababa signed an agreement with the secessionist Somaliland region in Somalia to have access to the Red Sea forcing Mogadishu to withdraw its envoy from Addis Ababa.
The controversial deal will see Somaliland “lease 20 kilometers of the Red Sea to Ethiopia” for the next 50 years and also enable Addis Ababa to establish a military base there.
Experts have warned that the agreement does not only violate the unity of Somalia and the constitution but could also stoke security tensions in the Horn of Africa.
Former Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo termed the agreement as “a serious concern for Somalia and the whole of Africa.”
“The agreement signed by Ethiopia with Somaliland today is a serious concern for Somalia and the whole of Africa. Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the anchor for regional stability and bilateral cooperation. The Somali government must respond appropriately.” Farmaajo posted on his official X handle last night.
Landlocked Ethiopia relies on neighbouring Djibouti for most of its maritime trade.
Yesterday’s agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi has elicited tension within Somalia.
Somaliland has not gained widespread international recognition, despite declaring autonomy from Somalia in 1991. Somalia says Somaliland is part of its territory.
If the pact is actioned, Abiy’s National Security adviser, Redwan Hussien said that it will clear the way for Ethiopia to set up commercial marine operations giving it access to a leased military base on the Red Sea.
In return, Somaliland would receive a share of state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Redwan said, without giving more details.
Media reports show that last week, Somalia and Somaliland had agreed to restart talks to resolve their disputes, following mediation efforts led by Djibouti.
Currently, Ethiopia relies on neighbouring Djibouti for most of its maritime trade.
President Abdi said as part of the agreement, Ethiopia would also be the first country to recognise Somaliland as an independent nation in due course.
The MoU paves the way to allowing Ethiopia to have commercial marine operations in the region by giving it access to a leased military base on the Red Sea.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country.
In early December last year, Ethiopia announced that it intended to formally go into default of the sovereign debt, having been under severe financial strain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and a two-year civil war that ended in November 2022.