The Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia announced on Monday an MoU signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland concerning access to the sea.
Initially, the office did not disclose details of the framework agreement, except stating that the MoU is “intended to serve as a framework for the multisectoral partnership between the two sides.” Implied in the disclosure is that an agreement between the two sides is pending.
Redwan Hussien, Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, clarified the MoU. He stated that Ethiopia has been undertaking various diplomatic efforts to secure access to the sea. There has been an ongoing discussion with Somaliland, although not at a higher level.
According to Redwan Hussien, the cooperation agreement covers social, economic, health, education, culture, agriculture, commerce and economics, defense, and intelligence realms to secure mutual interests.
In return, Ethiopia will gain a corridor of access to the sea based on a lease – initially for fifty years. However, it will be renewable after its expiry, pending Somaliland’s permission. Although Redwan did not mention it during his media briefing on Monday, other sources indicate that the land Ethiopia will be leasing from Somaliland is 20 kilometers of stretches of land. The border Ethiopia shares with Somaliland is as lengthy as the one it shares with Somalia. Tog Wajaale is one of the border towns that Ethiopia shares with Somaliland, and the distance to Berbera Port is less than 250 kilometers.
Redwan revealed that the land to be leased will be used as both a military base and a commercial maritime area. Ethiopia will need to develop infrastructure for the port corridor – from its border to the sea.
Ethiopia, despite not having direct access to the sea, has been reorganizing its navy for several years now.
Regarding Somaliland’s benefits, Redwan mentioned that Somaliland will receive shares in Ethio-Telecom and Ethiopian Airlines in exchange for the 50-year access to the sea lease, but the specific percentage is yet to be determined. Discussions on this matter are expected.
Additionally, reports are suggesting that Ethiopia will recognize Somaliland as an independent state. Many activists warn of the potentially dangerous political and security consequences for Ethiopia. The government of Somalia is outraged by the MoU and has reportedly called for an emergency cabinet meeting. Political observers tend to believe that Abiy Ahmed’s administration might be inviting regional conflict before resolving internal conflicts.
A letter purportedly from The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Somaliland, shared on social media, confirmed that Somaliland has agreed to give land to enable Ethiopia access to the sea. The agreement is signed in return for recognition for Somaliland statehood.
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