Ethiopia and Somaliland Reach Historic Agreement

Ethiopia has acknowledged the independence of Somaliland in return for naval and economic access to ports along the coast of the breakaway nation.

In reaction to the memorandum of agreement, the Somali government—which has always maintained that Somaliland is an integral part of Somalia—announced an urgent cabinet meeting. Muse Bihi, president of Somaliland, thanked the prime minister and Ethiopia, saying that the two countries would acknowledge each other and provide 20 kilometers of maritime access. A 50-year access lease is the terms of the deal.

The “gamechanger” arrangement, according to Ali Hassan Mohamed, Samiland’s minister of media, includes 20 kilometers of sea access in return for diplomatic recognition. Mohamed reaffirmed the government’s position on the matter. No mention of Somaliland was made by Abiy’s office when they hailed the deal; instead, they committed to “advance mutual interests via collaboration based on reciprocity.” A “new chapter of cooperation” and “regional integration in the Horn” will be inaugurated with the signing of the memorandum of understanding, which will fulfill the desire to gain access to the sea and diversify its access to sea ports.

Just days after Somalia and Somaliland declared progress in the mediation in Djibouti, pledging to continue conversation between their capitals, Ethiopia and Somaliland met. According to Somalia’s Abdikarim Hussein Guled, the special envoy to Somaliland, the agreement was an obvious “contempt for international conventions” on the part of Ethiopia and hampered efforts to resolve the conflict between Hargeisa and Mogadishu.

With over 95% of Ethiopia’s foreign commerce going via the Addis-Djibouti corridor, Djibouti plays a crucial role in the country’s economy. Neighbors are worried that Ethiopia may use its stated intention to press its rights to get access to ports around the East African coastline, as it has been doing since October.