Ethiopia warns Egyptian military base in Somaliland poses security threat

Ethiopia is reacting to what appears to be early stages of Egyptian military encroachment. Spokesperson in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls it “inappropriate”

Ethiopian Dam after the first stages of filling.

July 28, 2020

Well over a week after reports of Egyptian attempt to establish a military base in Somaliland, Ethiopia on Monday warns that Egypt should not do it for it constitutes a security threat in the region.

A report by the Daily on Tuesday quoted  the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dina Mufti, “As a sovereign country, Egypt has a legitimate right to create relationships with any county in the region,” However, “If Egypt’s intent to have a presence in the region would be a threat to a third country, that won’t be appropriate.”

Last week, Ethiopian Minister for Finance, Ahmed Shide, traveled to Somaliland with a message from Ethiopian Prime Minister, as some sources in Somaliland reported.

Dina Mufti, however, said that his visit to Somaliland is not related to concern over Egyptian Military base establishment. 

He described the visit as “routine schedules aimed to discuss bilateral relations between the countries and it has nothing to do with the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Somaliland.”

Egypt is attempting to establish a military base near Ethiopia (in the South East) while it agreed to continue the African Union-led negotiation on the filling timeline and technicalities of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Before the AU-led negotiation, Egypt attempted to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council – a move Ethiopia opposed saying that the GERD is a development project and does not constitute a security threat in the region. In early June 2020, there were reports that Egypt approached South Sudan to secure a military base which the South Sudanese Ambassador to Ethiopia dismissed as “baseless.”

There has been rhetoric of war against Ethiopia, and still there seems to be pressure on Sisi’s government to go in that direction. A commentary published on Arabnews on July 28, stated that “pressure is now mounting on Cairo to adopt a more confrontational attitude.” A report by Egypt Independent on Tuesday, however, said that “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ruled out resorting to military action to settle the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis, emphasizing that negotiations are the only way to solve the issue.”

It is to be recalled that Ethiopia announced that it has completed the first phase of filling GERD by exploiting heavy rainfall during the week. The second phase of the filling, which will retain 13.5 billion cubic meters of water, is to start in the second year as the dam generates electric power using two generators.

Ethiopia has expressed its commitment to fair use of the Abbay river without harming the water shares of the downstream countries. For Egypt, the fair use of the Abbay river is hinged on a “historical right” claim based on the colonial-era arrangement which allocates the lion’s share to Egypt while Ethiopia uses zero percent of the water when over 86 percent of the water originates from the country.  

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