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Ethiopia says reaction over MoU with Somaliland not unexpected , explains why it was needed

Ethiopia - Somalia - Somaliland _ Port
Redwan Hussien, Security Advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister (Photo : PD)

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Ethiopia has been facing a mounting condemnation from different quarters after signing a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland to get 20 square kilometers of land to access the sea over the Gulf of Aden. Somalia saw Ethiopia’s move as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Actors like Egypt and the Arab League resonated with similar voices. The African Union itself saw the MoU as inappropriate. However, there are also actors who opposed the deal out of concern for potential conflict in the region and urged negotiation- the United States. The European Union issued a brief “reminder” about “the importance of respecting the unity, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia pursuant of its constitution, the Charters of the African Union and the United Nations. This is key for the peace and stability of the entire Horn of Africa region.”

How is Ethiopia assessing the reactions from different actors?

In an interview with state-owned media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporate, Redwan Hussien, National Security Advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister who was also briefing diplomats based in the capital Addis Ababa regarding the issue, said “what happened is not what didn’t expect.” 

He was asked why there were entities that opposed the deal with Somaliland. He answered it with another question. “Why was it that  there was an effort to ensure Ethiopia does not have access to the sea?” 

Mr. Redwan also highlighted the circumstances under which Ethiopia became a landlocked country. He said Ethiopia was a victim of plots – insinuating actors that actively worked to make Ethiopia landlocked. 

But he also said that there are actors who opposed the deal with Somaliland out of fear that it would trigger a regional conflict in an already troubled region.  And then he sees a different category of opposition that is based on “going with the flow of international condemnation.” 

Another important point that Redwan Hussein highlighted is that Ethiopia has been making efforts to secure alternative access to the sea for more than 25 years now by pointing out conversations over Port Sudan ( with the government of Sudan) and Lamu ( with the government of Kenya. Proximity to Ethiopia has been a challenge – apparently from logistical point of view – and from the point of view of ensuring the security of imports and exports. 

He added that conversations are still continuing with other countries that offer alternatives to port and that Ethiopia is still open for conversation with other countries as well.  He framed the conversation with Somaliland not as an exception. In fact, he asserted that major countries, including those who are now condemning Ethiopia, knew about the conversation with Somaliland and the agreement although they did not speak about it in public. Without naming names, he went further to claim that there are actors that tend to see Ethiopia’s military base as necessary in connection with regional security.  

Mr. Redwan also pointed out that it has reached to a point that Ethiopia can no longer afford to rely on Djibouti port alone. He said Ethiopia [economy] has been growing and that all areas of the country have become exporters and importers. He also noted that Ethiopia is located near the area that has attracted multiples of actors and implied a security implication for Ethiopia if it continues to remain aloof. He reinforced his point saying that the Djibouti route – the only one Ethiopia is currently using – has been risky from the point of view of internal conflict as well. He said there have been attempts to control the route – and he said that in the context of internal conflict. 

For the Ethiopian government, as explained by Redwan Hussien, the agreement with Somaliland is an action along with broadening Ethiopia’s alternative to access to the sea. 

What Redwan emphasized in the interview is that several actors – from far away- are already in the region with military bases and that Ethiopia has been excluded while it is living in the heart of the region (the Horn of Africa). 

“It is no longer a question of national interest for Ethiopia. It has become a matter of existence,” he asserted. 

On Somalia

He highlighted that Somalia itself has been having conversation with many other countries from near and far  on similar matters. In fact, actors like Turkey have a strong military base in Somalia and a strong military presence. And it is one of the countries that opposed land lease deals between Ethiopia and Somaliland. 

Egypt, historically has been funding Ethiopian guerrilla fighters including the Oromo Liberation Front, is seizing the recent development as an opportunity and pursuing a military pact with Somalia. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somali President, is scheduled to travel to Cairo. 

Egypt and Ethiopia have been in controversy over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the last round of talks in December 2023 ended without an agreement as the former has been attempting to force Ethiopia to accept a colonial era arrangement over the Nile for which Ethiopia was not a signatory. 

Historically, Somalia invaded Ethiopia in the 1970’s when Ethiopia was undergoing internal crisis following the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution that overthrew Haile Selassie I Imperial government. 

Ethiopia’s Condition For Considering Recognition of Somaliland 

“When the agreement is completed, Ethiopia receives the land and the process is finalized,” said Redwan, “Ethiopia will take a stand to consider taking a stand in recognizing Somaliland as a sovereign country.” He reiterated that the Somaliland government has been existing for over thirty years. 

The Somaliland government saw the agreement that aligns well with the country’s interest – especially from the point of view of recognition.  There was celebration in Hargeisa when president Muse Bihi Abdi returned home after the agreement. 

A considerable number of Ethiopians are noticeably opposing the agreement for they see it as something that constitutes danger to Ethiopia under the existing circumstances. The country is deeply divided along political lines with ongoing civil wars in the Amhara and Oromia regions. Security for citizens, especially in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, has become a disaster to the point that mobility of Ethiopians from city to city has become a risky business. There are also many who tend to see Abiy Ahmed’s government’s latest move as another strategy to distract attention from the local domestic crisis.  

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9 COMMENTS

  1. This is becoming more and more interesting. All along since this news of MOU came out, my hunch has been that countries like Djibouti and the Gulf Nations might have known about or at got the wind of it before and during the talks began between Ethiopia and Somaliland. I don’t think even Somalia was all in the dark during the whole time. Even with out the absence of its nascent intelligence network in Somaliland, in a clan system there is called clan equal status. That includes my own Itu clan. Traditionally you have to share everything including the latest rumors and other local news with a member of your clan. So no matter how hard the two parties tried to conceal the process and status of the talks, someone will be talking to a member of his clan and from there it would be like a chain reaction. I hope officials in all three cities of Hargeisa, Addis/Finfine and Mogadishu will keep their senses and use this occasion as an opportunity to come together and sort things out. Unless the plan is to disintegrate and wipe Ethiopia off the face and map of the earth, Ethiopia’s desire to have access to sea is a legitimate one.

    I had said this a while ago. Some quarters of policy makers may think Ethiopia’s population has ballooned so enormous and will continue to even more enormous that it has reached a point where it can not carry its own weight and therefore it must be brought down to a manageable size. That is what these bigots among us here in The Diaspora and there in the old country have their lots in, their daydream and fantasy of carving out a territory to call it their own republic/fiefdom. That ain’t gonna happen
    Let’s monger peace and nothing but peace.

  2. Read African Union’s “Fact Finding Report” on Somaliland, prepared in 2005.

    It seems Somaliland has never been legally part of Somalia after all. Said Barre, the dictator who ruled Somalia in early 60s, took the liberty of claiming the territory as part of his rule just like he tried to forcefully annex the northern part of Kenya and Southeastern Ethiopia to gain territory and people for self aggrandizement and enrichment of his clan.

    ================================================
    AU Fact-Finding Mission to Somaliland (30 April to 4 May 2005)

    I. Introduction

    1..An AU Fact-Finding Mission visited and stayed in Somaliland from 30 April to 4 may
    2005, to see the prevailing situation (political, socio-economic, security, humanitarian
    and other related issues) in the country and listen to the concerns of the leadership and
    people of Somaliland, and duly report back the findings of the Mission to the
    Chairperson of the African Union Commission, with recommendations for further action.
    The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, H. E. Patrick Mazimhaka, led the Mission,
    accompanied by Dr A. M. Kambudzi, Analyst in the Peace and Security Department;
    Col. Jaotody Jean de Matha, Senior Military Expert, in the same Department; Mr Patrick
    Tigere, Head of the Humanitarian, Refugees and Displaced Persons Division in the
    Department of Political Affairs and Mr Dieudonne Kombo Yaya, Senior Political Officer,
    in the same Department.

    2. Contextually, it should be recalled that the Organization of African Unity (GAM/African
    Union {AU) had a longstanding invitation from Somaliland to undertake a visit to the
    country and view the situation on the ground. The authorities of Somaliland have also
    paid successive visits to the Commission in 2003, 2004, and early 2005, seeking an
    Observer status for Somaliland within the AU, not only to be able to follow
    developments on the continent, but also to gain a platform from which the country could
    state its case for reclaiming its 26 June 1960 independence and the recognition of the
    Republic of Somaliland as a sovereign state. Given the call from Somaliland, and based
    on his indication to the AU Executive Council in mid-2004, to dispatch a Fact-finding
    Mission to Somaliland, the Chairperson of the Commission, H. E. Alpha Oumar Konare,
    finally dispatched the Mission as indicated above.

    II. Consultations and Visits of the Mission

    3. The Mission held wide ranging consultations wall the main political actors other
    segments of the society in Hargeisa (capital): the President of the. Republic of
    Somaliland, members of the Cabinet members of the Somaliland Parliament, the
    Presidential Envoy for the Campaign for Recognition; intellectuals businesspersons and
    representatives of civic organizations and women associations. The Mission,
    accompanied by members of the welcoming Committee of Ministers, undertook visits to
    Berbera seaport at the Red Sea; town of Sheikh, in the interior; town of Burao, far in the
    interior south and the town of Borama, in the western part of the country. The visits, well
    received by huge crowds of town residents and rural folk, were the scene of intense
    consultations between the Mission and the respective mayors and other senior
    government officials, local political leaders; chiefs, elders and the representatives of
    civic organizations and women leaders. The Mission also visited some educational and
    vocational training centers. The message was the same at every place: “the
    Irreversible independence of Somaliland; the irreversible sovereignty of
    Somaliland; no return to the Union with Somalia; the quest for recognition from
    the AU and the international community”. Those visits also gave an opportunity to
    the Mission to witness-the legacy of the campaign of destruction by the Siyad Barre
    army; the destruction wrought by the civil war and its consequences on the civilian
    population (camps housing IDPs and Returnees, landmine fields, mass graves,
    disrupted physical and social infrastructures); inversely; the same visits were a window
    for the Mission the tremendous efforts deployed in the reconstruction of the country and
    the rehabilitation of the social fabric.

    4. In response, the Mission undertook to convey the message and sentiments of the
    authorities and people of Somaliland and to report on the situation that it had witnessed
    in the country to the Chairperson of the Commission.

    III. Overall assessment of the situation in Somaliland

    5. There was an evident conviction and emotion among the Somalilanders that their
    “country” has all the attributes of an independent sovereign State, which they say the
    international community should objectively consider. At the same time, there was a
    rejection in lotto of the idea of re-uniting with Somalia. The famous words “No more
    Mogadishu; no more Somalia; Somaliland is an independent country; we want
    recognition; it is our right”, addressed to the Fact-Finding Mission throughout its stay,
    visits and consultations bear testimony.

    6. Since the disintegration of Somalia provoked by the collapse of the Siyad Barre
    administration in early 1991, leading to the breakaway of Somaliland into a self-declared
    independent Republic, there has been an accelerated process of state building. That
    process was anchored, and remains so, on the recognition by the Somalilanders of the
    inherited colonial borders at the time of independence from Britain in June 1960:

    a. Somaliland has a Constitution that emanated from grassroots consultations and was
    sealed in the referendum held in 2003; the Constitution serves as the basic Law in
    Somaliland and does enjoy respect in the political practice in Somaliland. The
    Constitution provides for the relevant arms of government and the effective separation
    of powers that go along it.

    b. Somaliland has territory as defined by the colonial borders inherited from the British
    colonial rule on accession to independence in 1960. In the north, the country is
    bordered by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden adjoining into the Indian Ocean;
    Puntland State borders it on the east, the while Ethiopia neighbors it on the west. To the
    north-west, Somaliland is bordered by Djibouti.

    c. Somaliland has a population that is estimated by local sources at 3.5 million resident
    in the country and one million living in the Diaspora, the majority of which fled the civil
    war. The Somali language is spoken throughout the country, whilst English and Arabic
    are also used in official and business transactions. It is not unusual to encounter those
    Somalis who can speak Swahili and Italian.

    e. Somaliland has only declared its own independence, after “reclaiming it from the
    collapsed union”. But the international community has not recognized that
    independence thus far. However, there is a standing army with a “mandate to defend
    the independence and territorial integrity of Somaliland”.

    f. Somaliland has achieved peace and stability, through a horse-grown disarmament,
    demobilization and re-Integration process and internally driven democratization;

    g. Somaliland has a real economic potential, based on its surface and sub-surface
    resources and maritime resources.

    IV. Findings of the Mission

    7. The AU Fact-Finding Mission found out the following aspects during its three working
    days in Somaliland and in the different sectors:

    a. Since its declaration of independence in 1991, Somaliland has been steadfastly
    laying the foundations of a democratic State, clothed with the relevant attributes of a
    “modern State”. Those foundations include the Constitution of Somaliland which
    entrenches, among other aspects, the separation of power between the three arms of
    government; balance of political forces built upon the functional co-habitation of
    traditional governance institutions, as embodied in the political role of the clan elders
    and elected representatives; the existence of active opposition political parties with
    some capacity to influence public policy and a budding independent press;

    b. The plethora of problems confronting Somaliland in the political, socio-economic,
    military, humanitarian and other sectors stem from two main factors, namely, the legacy
    of a political union with Somalia, which malfunctioned, brought destruction and ruin,
    thereby overburdening the population; the lack of recognition of Somaliland as an
    “independent sovereign State” by the international community to enable it undertake
    international, political, social, economic and other relevant functions and transactions
    and the significant, and yet untapped economic potential.

    c. Somaliland and Somalia entered into a “Union” in July 1960, based on a shared
    ambition among the Somalis to build a “Greater Somalia”, which was to incorporate all
    the Somali communities in the Horn of Africa. In the course of time, the Union
    malfunctioned. The legacy of the abortive union and the resulting civil war left behind a
    trail of physical destruction and social dislocation, all of which require more resources in
    order for the population to recover and enjoy better conditions of life.

    e. Though credit has to be given to Somaliland for promoting a democratic order, and
    within a shorter span of time, there are gaps that need attention from both the policy
    makers and the individual citizens. One critical gap lies in gender relations in terms of
    the predominance of men in the various structures, institutions and processes. In the
    words of the President of the Republic of Somaliland, these are being taken to foster
    conditions for women’s participation across all sectors of political and socio-economic
    life, including a deliberate policy, already in place, in favor of an incremental enrolment
    of female students in schools and all tertiary institutions.

    f. There is a visibly emotional attachment to the reclaimed independence and a firm
    determination among the people of Somaliland not to return to the failed union with
    Somalia, whether or not recognition is granted. In the words of the President, “should
    Africa and the international community insist on Somaliland re-establishing the union
    with Somalia, the leaders and people of Somaliland would “opt to fight again to preserve
    their independence. In fact, the Horn of Africa would be engulfed again in the old
    notions of a Greater Somalia and the pursuit of narrow-gauged national interests by
    countries in the region, with all the consequences befall the region.”

    V. Observations and Recommendations

    8. Going by the clear presentation and articulate demands of the authorities and people
    of Somaliland concerning their political, social and economic history, Somaliland has
    been made a “pariah region” by default. The Union established in 1960 brought
    enormous injustice and suffering to the people of the region. The fact that the “union
    between Somaliland and Somalia was never ratified” and also malfunctioned when it
    went into went into action from 1960 to 1990, makes Somaliland’s search for recognition
    historically unique and self-justified in African political history. Objectively viewed, the
    case should not be linked to the notion of “opening a Pandora’s box”. As such, the AU
    should find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case.

    9. The lack of recognition ties the hands of the authorities and people of Somaliland as
    they cannot effectively and sustainably transact with the outside to pursue the
    reconstruction and development goals.

    10. Whilst it remains a primary responsibility of the authorities and people of Somaliland
    to deploy efforts to acquire political recognition from the international community, the AU
    should be disposed to judge the case of Somaliland from an objective historical
    viewpoint and a moral angle vis-a-vis the aspirations of the people. Furthermore, given
    the acute humanitarian situation prevailing in Somaliland, the AU should mobilize
    financial resources to help alleviate the plight of the affected communities, especially
    those catering for the IDPs and Returnees.

    10. Finally, given, also, the high potential for conflict between Mogadishu and Hargeisa,
    the AU should take steps to discuss critical issues in the relations between the two
    towns. That initiative should be taken the earliest possible.

    • Thank you Obbo Worku for posting the Fact Finding Report’ by the commission set up by The AU just for this purpose.
      I remember when the British left and Somaliland. I thought they will opt for independence then but to my astonishment they opted to join the ‘Greater Somalia’ madness and they paid for it dearly. ‘Somali Wayne’ became all the rage and they forcibly joined the chorus. They were made to believe in being a race that were not and still are not. They were told they are Arabs. This turned their leaders in Mogadishu into madly megalomaniacs wrongly believing they are superior to anyone in Ethiopia and Kenya. They had the nerve to rename my Oromos as ‘Somali Abos’ and Afars as ‘Somali Aikas’. Someone(a Somali friend’) once told me that they had renamed our Amhara neighbors ‘Somali Antes’. It ended up with utter destruction and loss of human lives close to a quarter of a million innocent citizens just in Somaliland alone. It was a virulent madness that still ravages some knuckle heads to this day.

  3. This is asking for more trouble n a very troubled region, as if it doen already facing enough of that kind of troubles.. Why Abiy is willing to plunge the country into another violence this time with its neighbors.?

  4. This is asking for more trouble in a very troubled region, as if it doesn’t already facing enough of its kind.. Why is Abiy willing to plunge the country into another cycle of violence this time with its neighbors.?

  5. My relatives in the capital are now getting a few reports of refugees especially with Oromo ethnicity who are now living in various part of Somalia are being roughed up and manhandled. That is because citizens are reading polemic comments that allege the MOU is a grand scheme by ‘Oromo’ nationalists to appropriate Somali territory including its seashores. I can see that myself from the comments by a handful hateful individuals posting on various websites. These refugees became refugees at no fault of their own. They fled natural disasters and violent internal conflicts. They wanted to go somewhere where they can be safe and find work so they can somehow support their families. They have nothing to do with the MOU. This accusation of PM Abiy not as an official but an Oromo is putting innocent Oromos in Somalia in grave danger. That was and is why attacking someone as an ethnic individual never sits well with me. I had warned those who coined ‘Neftegna’ as an enemy number#1 when I I discovered it way back in the 1970’s. I cautioned those who began using it in their propaganda that such wholesale allegations could lead to victimization of innocent individuals/citizens. Sadly my fear was proven legit in the early 1990’s.
    This is not the first time innocent Oromos just like innocent Amharas were brutalized. In the early 1990’s when violent fracas broke out in the city of Dire Dawa inflammatory and unsubstantiated news reached Djibouti. That many Somalis were massacred by Oromos in Dire Dawa. Angry mob descended upon innocent and defenseless Oromo refugees in Djibouti where many lost their lives. It was nights and days of long knives. That was because someone gripped with deep seated hatred concocted that inciting news and spewed it around. The same might happen to innocent refugees now. I will be holding those who are attaching this MOU to an Oromo individual/official. The fact is this decision to pursue an MOU is not something decided by an individual or one Oromo. There are Amharas, Somalis, Afars, Gurages, Tigre’s, Sidamas and others with various ethnic groups who pushed for it. Not to mention 547 representatives in the parliament who are not all Oromos.
    Again, I will be holding those of you who portray this MOU as an exclusively Oromo grand scheme for any harm done to innocent refugees. You must ashamed of yourselves.

  6. All those bla bla bla and more bla won’t change the fact that Somaliland is a part of somalia.
    Make no mistake the somalis are the most hard fighting and ten times more patriotic than anyone in the region when it comes to outsiders.
    If any foreign or domestic tries to infringe a piece of somali sea and land I would take up arms and die fighting to get it back on track. This to me is more important, clearly more tangible, and more urgent than any so called struggle that Somalis have ever prided themselves on taking up arms for.
    This act will be the reason that the greater somalia dream will revive & the Somalis to reinvent themsleves.

  7. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The liberation of the ancient vassal state of the pharaohs has begun at 16:00 hours this afternoon. The liberation is headed by the indomitable 205th mechanized corps based on island 200 miles west of Socotra. Al-Rais Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in consultation with Tayeb gave the green hours earlier before the start of the liberation. So far, the Ethiopian soldiers did not have the chance. Those who refused to surrender were decimated. The plan is to clean the entire country of Ethiopia especially Issas, Afars, Isaaqs, Tigres, Amharas, Oromos and others who have been collaborating with them. With the growing population Egypt needs not only the undisturbed Blue Nile and its tributaries, but also a vast livable land that can be further developed. First these Abds/niiig–g–ers should be expurgated from the area. How about for good news for bigots and sons of a thousand fathers/furukhs?

  8. Somalis are petitioning to get the nobel peace prize that was undeservingly granted to Abiy Ahmed the 21 century, notorious for inciting war, violence, starvation and tension inside and outside of Ethiopia.
    Wondrad, Kokebe Tsebha and many other schools are being used for torturing and imprisonment of Amhara, Gurages, Southern non-Oromo Ethiopians . War is ragging in Amhara region.and Oromo Prosperity Party members fleeing and seeking asylum.

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