Territorial Tensions: The Accusations Against Ethiopia by Somalia

Territorial Tensions: The Accusations Against Ethiopia by Somalia Territorial Tensions: The Accusations Against Ethiopia by Somalia
President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, centre, attends the 37th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa [Michele Spatari/AFP]

Territorial tensions have escalated between Somalia and Ethiopia, with accusations from Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that Ethiopia is attempting to annex part of Somalia’s territory. These allegations stem from a recent sea access deal signed between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland.

President Mohamud, while speaking at the African Union summit in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, expressed his concerns about the agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland. He stated that the deal is essentially a ploy to annex part of Somalia to Ethiopia and alter Somalia’s borders. He firmly stated Somalia’s objection to this move.

The agreement, signed on January 1, grants Ethiopia a 50-year lease on a naval base with access to Somaliland’s Berbera port for commercial marine operations. The specifics of the deal have not been made public, but it appears that Ethiopia will have the right to build a port in Somaliland in exchange for recognition.

It is worth noting that Somaliland has enjoyed de facto independence for the past three decades. However, Somalia asserts that the self-governing region and its four million inhabitants are an integral part of its northern territory.

Territorial Tensions: The Accusations Against Ethiopia by Somalia
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

The Somali government views any international recognition of Somaliland as an attack on Somalia’s sovereignty. Consequently, it has vehemently criticized the port deal with Addis Ababa, labeling it as “outrageous” and “unauthorized.”

This dispute exacerbates the existing tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia. In addition to the territorial concerns, President Mohamud also expressed his frustration with Ethiopian security forces, claiming that they attempted to hinder his access to the African Union summit.

These accusations against Ethiopia by Somalia further complicate an already complex situation in the region. The clash between Somalia’s territorial claims and Somaliland’s aspirations for recognition has created a delicate balancing act for neighboring countries and international actors involved.

The African Union and other key stakeholders must address the underlying issues that fuel these territorial tensions. Swift and effective diplomacy needs to be employed to find a resolution that respects the aspirations of both Somalia and Somaliland while maintaining regional stability.

During a recent statement, Mohamud accused Ethiopia of deceiving the international community by requesting access to the sea. He emphasized that the real issue lies in how Ethiopia plans to obtain this access rather than the access itself. Mohamud also claimed that senior officers from Ethiopia’s military were present in Somaliland, seemingly preparing for the annexation of the territory.

However, the veracity of this allegation could not be confirmed. In response to these tensions, Somalia has expressed its willingness to engage in a military conflict if Ethiopia proceeds with its plans to construct a port in Somaliland. However, Prime Minister Abiy of Ethiopia has downplayed concerns of a potential armed conflict, assuring lawmakers that he has no intentions of going to war with Somalia.

Territorial Tensions: The Accusations Against Ethiopia by Somalia
President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, centre, attends the 37th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa [Michele Spatari/AFP]
During the recent AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Somalia’s president, Mohamud, expressed strong condemnation towards the Ethiopian government. He accused Ethiopia of having ulterior motives behind their desire for access to the sea, emphasizing that Ethiopia already shares borders with several other countries that have coastal areas. According to Mohamud, Ethiopia’s true intention is to annex Somaliland, a region that is currently part of Somalia.

Furthermore, the Somali president criticized the behavior of the Ethiopian government, stating that they even attempted to prevent him from attending the summit by blocking his access to the venue. Mohamud voiced his disbelief at such actions taking place in a country that hosts the AU, an organization founded on principles of equality among African states and the freedom of its leaders to attend summits.

In response, Ethiopia claimed to have warmly welcomed Mohamud and treated him with the same level of respect as other visiting heads of state and government officials attending the summit.

During the AU summit in Ethiopia, tensions arose between the Somali delegation and the AUC security. According to Billene Seyoum, spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy, the Somali delegation was blocked from entering a venue with weapons.

This incident raised concerns about the security measures in place during the summit. Meanwhile, another important issue took center stage as Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attended the gathering and raised the pressing matter of Israel’s war in Gaza.

With the AU leaders still divided over their support for Palestine, this topic added further complexity to the discussions. As African leaders convened to address a range of issues, from regional security to economic cooperation, the incidents with the Somalia delegation and the Palestinian Prime Minister’s intervention highlighted the challenges and complexities faced by the AU in its pursuit of unity and solidarity among member states.

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