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Two Strange and Worrying Reasons for Wanting a Port  

Ethiopia Red Sea Port Access
Source : Horn Diplomat

By Awol Endris ADEM, PhD  

Ethiopia has been a landlocked country ever since Eritrea separated from it in May 1993 after 30  years of war. That event made Ethiopia lose two big ports on the Red Sea, Assab and  Massawa, all at once. As a result, it’s now the biggest landlocked country in the world with  over 120 million people. Admittedly, this is a very undesirable situation and ways and means  will have to be explored to allow Ethiopia unhindered access to a port to cater for its import  and export needs.  

The best option for this is to negotiate peacefully with its neighbours for the mutual benefit of  both parties. The countries that would allow Ethiopia to use their ports will benefit from the  cordial relationship that would be built on terms of equality and mutual benefit. The amount  of goods exported and/or imported from a country as big as Ethiopia will surely benefit its  port-owning neighbours as much as it does itself if favourable terms can be negotiated  between them. This is economic common sense and civilised behaviour more than anything  else.  

The issue of Ethiopia having a port of its own is now being pushed very aggressively by the  Ethiopian government. And the way it’s done has become a source of worry and deep  suspicion by nearly all its neighbours. Each of them has expressed their strong opposition to  any high-handed attempt by Ethiopia to acquire a port as a sovereign possession and not as a  right of use.  

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, in his recent Q&A session with Members of the Ethiopian  Parliament, listed many reasons for why he’s now actively and openly seeking to have a  sovereign right over a port. My attention has been attracted to two of the reasons mentioned  as I found them a little strange and worrying too.  

The first of the two relates to a horrible future situation that the PM envisages could happen  in Ethiopia for which we need a sovereign right to a port. He said we need our own port in  order to import relief supplies when a major famine hits the country and we could not feed  ourselves. “Anyone who’s hungry would eat anything it gets around it,” he said. This is a very  strange and very worrying thing to think about.  

A PM worth his salt won’t argue for a sustainable and fair access to a port so that his  countrymen and women will have easier access to relief supplies sent from abroad. 

A PM worth his salt will mobilise his people and put in place effective policies and programmes  to be self-sufficient in food production so that all of his citizens have enough to eat even in  times of drought and natural calamities. A PM worth his salt won’t plan to rely on unhindered  access to a port so that handouts will come to his people via someone’s ports ceded to his  country by a neighbour as a sovereign piece of territory. And the analogy of a hungry man (or  woman) eating anything they get around them is very worrying as it could be interpreted as a  threat of invasion if his demands are not met. War is the last thing Ethiopia needs at this point  in time, having come out of a very atrocious two-year war in its northern region of Tigray and  a new outrageous conflict is taking place in two of the biggest regions of the country, namely,  Amhara and Oromia.  

The second very strange reason the PM mentioned for his claim of a sovereign right to a port  of a neighbour is so that the neighbours won’t be inundated by refugees from Ethiopia. He  mentioned that Saudi Arabia and Tanzania have deported thousands of Ethiopians who were  in their countries illegally, and said this situation would be much worse if Ethiopia is not  given a port and access to sea from a sovereign piece of real estate from among its  neighbours. “Imagine what it’d be like if five million Ethiopians fled the country to Sudan,  and another five million to Somalia and another five million to another neighbour,” he said.  This is very scary indeed. But far more than that, it shows what the PM aspires for his  country.  

Ethiopia is a very big country and very rich in natural resources. The only thing that stands  between its prosperity and its current sad state is the lack of good governance and the  rampant mismanagement in the country. A PM worth his salt would do well to steer the  country to true democracy and good governance and put in place effective economic and  social policies and everything else will fall into place. A PM worth his salt will listen to the  grievances of his people and solve political problems through negotiations rather than sabre  rattling at every slight provocation and using heavy weapons to attack his own people. A PM  worth his salt would make his country attractive enough for its citizens to remain in the  country and earn their living through their honest labour rather than risk a perilous journey  through very hostile desert or treacherous seas. A PM worth his salt will make his country  economically attractive so that less fortunate ones elsewhere will want to come and live here  rather than Ethiopians flock out of their country in big numbers.  

May common sense prevail and we avert a looming disaster from happening!! 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of 


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  1. Subject: “Two Strange and Worrying Reasons for Wanting a Port” December 1, 2023

    Humble Commentary, 01 Dec 2023
    ha) ETHIOPIA is on a track to a mess.

    hu) Ethiopia has never experienced such a mess in its entire LIFE.

    he) Now, Ethiopia is heading to the phenomenon that our African brethren already experienced under the ugly colonial

    ha) What is Ethiopia trying to prove, in such a move of madness ????

    hie) Well, without appearing to ask TOO MUCH from the Good Lord, may we have a last chance for survival?!!?!?!?


    ho) I have nothing to add; and ETHIOPIA will keep on going in its modern disintegration —and Black Africa will keep
    on gong in its style. THAT IS WHAT WE ARE, WE CAN NOT HELP IT
    ————–THE END ———–
    Important Post Script:
    THANK YOU, WWW. BORKENA.COM for the privilege to have a space to express my feeling, as a VERY SAD Black African.

  2. Very thoughtful piece by Obbo Awol Endris Adem. It provokes lively and productive discussion. One thing that could have been added to the article is the status of the opposition right after this statement. ‘Ethiopia is a very big country and very rich in natural resources. The only thing that stands between its prosperity and its current sad state is the lack of good governance and the rampant mismanagement in the country.’ I have it this way: ‘Ethiopia is a very big country and very rich in natural resources. The only thing that stands between its prosperity and its current sad state is the lack of good governance, the rampant mismanagement and the absence of united, big and strong opposition’ in the country.

    If there has been a large and strong opposition part in the country, it could have forced the extirpation of mismanagement from the belly of a seating regime. It could have reinforce the good in the constitution and help enact rightful amendments. But that is not the case. The opposition is splintered seemingly beyond the ability to repair itself. Just try to count all the visible opposition political groups and you will be hard pressed to catch your breath. And there are those bigots who do not touch any grouping without ethnic lines. They don’t seem to learn from their own losing experience. Let me put it this way. That country will never reach the Promise Land where the rights of the individual are protected by the law of the land and no one will be allowed to be above of such laws just by the auspices of the leaders of a governing regime. If that happens it will be just temporary and things will go to the old habits of despotism. But if there is a strong, large and united opposition party the victories achieved will be effectively and permanently protected and preserved. Do we need examples? Former West Germany, Taiwan, Japan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Norway and South Korea among glaring examples since the end of WWII.

    Again, thank you dear editor for gracing us with thoughtful article and keeping its clean of ordinary terms like ‘Oromummaa’, ‘Neftegna’ and ‘Woyane’ that are being used as pejoratives these days by intellectuals among us just to denigrate others.


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