Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has signed a law ‘nullifying’ an agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia that would have granted the latter a long-sought access to the Red Sea in exchange for being the first to recognize the former as an independent nation. The president of Somalia has deemed the deal illegal and an infringement on Somalia’s sovereignty.
The agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, which includes leasing a 20-kilometer stretch of land along its coastline (around the port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden) to establish a naval base and granting Ethiopia access to commercial maritime services, has recently sparked tensions. Apart from causing concern in the Horn of Africa region, the deal has raised alarm among international organizations such as the African Union, United States, European Union, and the Arab League.
Get exclusive access to the groundbreaking story of Ms. Faith Odhiambo’s historic presidency at LSK in our Latest Edition of Nairobi Law Monthly MagazineDownload Latest Edition Now For Ksh 150!
Somaliland, which is a self-declared independent region within Somalia, has its own government, security forces, and currency. It holds a strategic significance, the reason why Somalia views the pact as an act of aggression and a violation of its territorial integrity.
By signing the law nullifying the agreement, Somalia has made it clear it will not tolerate any encroachment on its sovereignty. The central government in Mogadishu has vowed to oppose the port agreement by any legal means. The nullification of the deal is a testament to Somalia’s commitment to international law and its determination to protect its unity and territorial integrity.
“As a government, we have condemned and rejected the illegal infringement of Ethiopia into our national sovereignty and territorial integrity… Somalia belongs to the Somali people. This is final,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
The port deal serves as an alternative for Ethiopia to its landlocked status. Following Eritrea’s secession in 1993, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea. Since then, Ethiopia has relied heavily on the port of Djibouti for its imports and exports. Through it, Ethiopia was hoping to regain access to the coast, providing alternative routes for its trade and reducing its dependence on Djibouti
While Somaliland considers itself an independent republic, Somalia does not recognize its claim to independence. This disagreement dates back to the formation of a unified country after Somalia and Somaliland gained independence from Italy and Britain, respectively. Somalia’s opposition to Somaliland’s claim to independence stems from its desire to maintain territorial integrity and unity. However, in reality, Somalia exercises little control over the affairs of Somaliland.
Even though the nullification may not directly impact the existing agreement, it sends a strong message that Somalia will not tolerate any encroachment on its sovereignty. The ball is now in the court of Ethiopia, Somaliland, and the international community to find a resolution that respects the rights and aspirations of all parties involved.
With tensions high and interests at stake, it is imperative for all parties to engage in meaningful dialogue and negotiation to reach a mutually beneficial solution. Only through peaceful and diplomatic means can the issues surrounding port access and sovereignty be addressed in a manner that ensures stability and prosperity for the region as a whole.