The Somali government on Tuesday condemned a deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland.
The deal, agreed on Monday, would see Ethiopia gain access to the Red Sea and its major trade routes in exchange for formal recognition of Somaliland — a region across the northern strip of the Horn of Africa that is seeking independence from Somalia.
Somali authorities said Somaliland remained a part of Somalia under the constitution. Therefore, “Somalia finds this step to be a clear violation against its sovereignty and unity,” the government said in a statement.
What was the deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland?
Somaliland has agreed to grant neighboring landlocked Ethiopia the use of its port of Berbera on the Red Sea.
It will also lease out 20 kilometers (12 miles) of sea access for 50 years while also allowing Ethiopia to build a military base on the coast, Ethiopian national security advisor Redwan Hussein said.
Addis Ababa had previously relied on Djibouti for its maritime trade after losing access to the coast following a three-decade war with its own breakaway region — Eritrea — which achieved independence in 1993.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had declared its ambition to secure access to the Red Sea, sparking concern among neighbors and the wider community about further conflict in the region.
In exchange, Ethiopia would become the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Somaliland.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Abiy and Somaliland’s leader Muse Bihi Abdi on Monday.
How did Somalia respond?
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud described the surprise deal as a “disgrace against international norms and laws,” in a speech to parliament on Tuesday.
“This is not an agreement, but a violation of our existence as a country,” he said.
The move came after the Somali government had relaunched a dialogue with officials in Somaliland. Mohamud also stressed that Somalia had been seeking to work together with Ethiopia for a better future for both countries.
Following an emergency meeting, the Council of Ministers called on the UN Security Council and the African Union to intervene.
Even the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab weighed in, condemning the deal and pledging to “defend our land and sea with our blood.”
Somaliland, a region with a population of around 3.5 million, declared independence in 1991 and has since been spared much of the violence wrought upon the rest of Somalia by groups such as al-Shabab.
ab/dj (dpa, Reuters, AFP)