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Somalia calls Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement act of aggression

January 4, 2024

By Mohamud Abdiaziz
Abdisamad & Kalkidan Yibeltal
BBC News, Mogadishu & Addis Ababa

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addressed MPs following Ethiopia’s agreement with Somaliland

Somalia has described an agreement that landlocked Ethiopia made with the self-declared republic of Somaliland over sea access as an act of “aggression”.

Somaliland seceded from Somalia more than 30 years ago, but is not recognised internationally.

It said that Ethiopia agreed to recognise its independence at some point in the future in exchange for military access to the coast.

Ethiopia has not confirmed this aspect of Monday’s contentious deal.

Instead, the office of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said it signed what is known as a memorandum of understanding (MoU) “to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to seaports”.

Mr Abiy had previously described sea access as an “existential issue” for his country.

His national security adviser, Redwan Hussein, also said on X that the arrangement could enable Ethiopia to access a “leased military base” on the sea, but gave no further details.

An MoU is regarded as a statement of intent and can lead to a legally binding treaty.

The development is being portrayed by both sides as a major diplomatic step.

Somalia, however, has reacted angrily to the MoU as it sees Somaliland as part of its territory.

It said it was recalling its ambassador to Ethiopia.

The government said the agreement was “null and void” and a violation of its sovereignty.

In a statement it added that it “considers this action as an aggression and… is an impediment to the good neighbourliness, peace and stability of the region which [is] already struggling with many challenges”.

Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Bare urged people to remain calm.

“I want to assure them that we are committed to the defence of the country. A part of our land, our sea and our air cannot be violated and I will defend it in every legal way,” he said at a hastily arranged press conference.

The Reuters news agency reports that addressing parliament later on Tuesday, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that “no-one has the power give away a piece of Somalia”.

“Somaliland, you are the northern regions of Somalia. Ethiopia has no recognition for you,” he added.

Somalia also said it wanted the UN Security Council and the African Union to discuss the issue.

The exact details of Monday’s agreement that was signed by Prime Minister Abiy and Somaliland’s President Muse Bihi Abdi in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, are not known.

Mr Abdi said the agreement included a section stating that Ethiopia would at some point in the future recognise Somaliland as an independent country.

Somaliland’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the “agreement ensures Ethiopia’s access to the sea for their naval forces, reciprocated by formal recognition of the Republic of Somaliland, marking this as a significant diplomatic milestone for our country”.

It quoted the president as saying that recognition would be in “exchange for 20km (12 miles) sea access for the Ethiopian naval forces, leased for a period of 50 years”.

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  1. I suggest Somalia take this as an opportunity and make its vast area of seashore available for port facility investors that includes Ethiopia. The talks that have begun between Somalia and Somaliland should not be interrupted because of this MOU. Somaliland is now what it is, efficiently, peacefully and democratically run entity. It has become the envy of the entire Horn of Africa. My personal preference is somehow it stays with Somalia and its current arrangement of governance in tact. If Somalia turns into a peaceful, stable and democratic nation, the need to stay separated would be a moot point, redundant. But for now, Somaliland is a diplomatic nightmare, something you can’t live with or without it. This is all the result of a serious political error that those decision making leaders in the then British Somaliland committed in 1960.

    Egypt and its fiefdom The Arab League have started beating the drums of war as expected. Somalia should take this with a good pinch of salt. Somalis are not Arabs to start with. It should sit down with its black folk neighbors and sort things out with Ethiopia first and foremost respecting the charters of both AU and UN. When someone keeps complaining his country’s sovereignty is being violated should not be the one violating other’s sovereignty.

    I also wonder how the people and government of Djibouti have reacted to this MOU. I don’t expect the Ethiopian government officials just jumped on this deal without the knowledge of the leaders of Djibouti. How about the nearby powers of Saudi Arabia and UAE? UAE already has a huge stake in the port of Berbera. This is becoming more and more interesting. Please also note that both Saudi Arabia and UAE have invested in projects worth billions of US dollars in Ethiopia. I am not ready to believe that the officials in Addis/Finfine made this decision without having a sit down with officials in Djibouti, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. I am not also ready to conclude that every official in Addis/Finfine is a mad man!

    I may also add my long held admiration to my Djiboutian brothers and sisters for the wise political decision they made in 1977. All glory to them!!!

  2. When tyrants fail to deliver on promises they always go to war. This is the same thing even though another war would confirm the suspicion of PM’s madness.

    Ethiopians and Somalians are known for their fierce spirit of independence but they failed to cooperate in the 19th century because of misunderstanding of each other’s different styles. The Ethiopians mostly believe in king/chief/Ras and giving one person most of the power while Somalis only have ‘one among equals’ kind of governing system. In those wars against colonizers the Ethiopian Ras’s would appoint one Somali chief in a certain region of Somali and leave. What ‘the highlanders’ failed to see was that none of the ‘equally chiefs’ of the traditional Somali liked that arrangement. Only a few Somalis like Omar Semeter understood the difference in style and succeeded. (Colonialists threatened and demanded Omar Semeter dead or alive but Addis Ababa not only protected him but also built a school in his memory back in the 1950s or 60s)

    At one point the situation became frustrating so much so that a long time resident Syrian was administering Jigjiga since he lived long enough there to understand both. Many decades later the Somalis will like an Addisababan with a master’s degree from an Ivy league school of USA called Girmame Neway when he took charge there. Later on the same Girmame and his much older brother gen Mengistu would try to topple the emperor and fail in Nov 1960.

    Somalia has a five point star on its flag representing all the five regions where Somalis are a majority but only two were included when the first Somalia nation was created. But even that Somalia had problems getting things together from the get go. So why not externalize the problem while ‘awakening nationalism’ at the same time? But where do we start? Djibouti is so small and a war there would last a few minutes, right? Wrong! France would unleash its anger. What about Kenya? Nope! The British won’t sit idle either. Ethiopia has a big population but it is as black as Somalia and totally independent. There you go! But it proved to be difficult than it seemed. A certain Weldesellassie Bereka that knew the area like the back of his hand when he was fighting against fascist Italy and later in exile in Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan won all the battles with amazing ease. And later on a certain Aman Andom would get famous for his skills of war which he polished in Korea a few years earlier. W.S. Bereka was a Gurage and Aman an Eritrean and ENDF was the most diverse institution of Ethiopia rank and file but Somalis thought they were all Amharas with horns on their heads. Mengistu H/M had literally killed, imprisoned, exiled or retired all the generals by 1977 and a lot of the majors were too busy being gov’t doing civilian jobs. It was time to strike! And for a couple months it seemed like it was working, and president Carter was on National Geographic expressing support (at least according to the copy I found in the old collection of magazines of my uncle I inherited), and this time around, some ‘Ethiopian’ political parties were sabotaging the defensive war effort of their own country (ref interview of Amb Kassa Kebede Tessema on ESAT). But it didn’t last long. And now the furious Mengistu (Tuluma Oromo on his father’s side) didn’t care if Somalia was stable or not anymore and went on revenge, albeit covertly. A few years later there was no Somalia.

    A diplomat named Yasin was on Messay’s Anchor Media lately explaining the details. The guy was widely known as a columnist with a pen name Hassen Omar Abdela at the popular TTobiya magazine in 1990s. And he said that there is nothing that unites Somalians than an aggression from Ethiopia. He also remembered a dozen of the brightest Ethiopian university graduates he helped train in the FMy of Ethiopia in the late 1980s. Four or five of those are still working there, he said. The by-now-seasoned foreign relations experts were obviously not heard, he added.

    Eritrea has an identity and its own interest to protect but relatively small population and economy. With some countries in the area getting richer and bolder in their ambitions while the world moves away from Benzine, Eritrea might need the massively populated Ethiopia as a little more than just a friend for its economy and defense. Once the madness of ethno-fascism in Tigre and Oromo tribal lands are gone, sane people can come together and find a solution that benefits the whole HoA. But that’s just the little me no burden of intellectualism on my shoulder. And with no PhD except for the one I bought from internet for 99 USD a few years ago. So never mind.

  3. 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.

  4. If this MOU was signed between Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia or even Kenya, it wouldn’t have been so controversial for so many. The problem has its roots way back in 1960 when the decision making individuals in British Somaliland chose not to be an independent nation. That decision came to bite them 30 years later that cost them almost a million lives. After horrific deaths and destruction they have gone their separate ways since 1991 and shown the rest of the world that Africa can have a nation with peace, stability and fledgling democratic governance. But recognition as an independent nation has been hard to come by for them due to the current binding charters of the AU and The UN. The current regime in Asmara will never give them recognition. Djibouti and other nearby countries are not ready to do so either. Even South Sudan will not budge on this one. Referendum? That could be the ultimate solution. But who will endorse that for them? Everyone is afraid that such move will open a floodgate of calls for referendums from Bosaso to Dakar, Senegal. I can see how it has become a nightmare for policy makers every where. The 2nd chance they missed was after they formed a separate governance in 1991. They did not push their demand for a referendum hard enough like the Eritreans did at that time. The current leaders in Asmara got their way but those in Hargeisa did not, even though they share identical history in the 19th and 20th centuries. So what will this MOU bring for the people of Somaliland? Your guess is as good as mine.

  5. All this hoopla and silly rage will subside and very few people will remember how it seems intense right now. That is the norm for The HOA. If all the rage in the past had telling consequences Ethiopia should have been all gone by now; Djibouti would have all gone a week after it gained its independence; Eritrea, oh my God, it should have been dead and gone two weeks after it was recognized by the UN and AU. But one thing could have happened if one of the top leaders of the Ethiopian government was born to a mother from the Isaaq clan. Eritrea had Meles on his mother side and the entire went flawless. If there was another top honcho in the then EPRDF born to an Isaaq mother Somaliland could have been a new independent nation to be recognized by The UN and AU right after Eritrea. They just missed the boat just by five minutes. If that was the case we wouldn’t be deafened by this raucous and fake Harimaadee Hana Haban or Hobalo Hoyale from loser reincarnated af-weynes.

  6. 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.

    • Please remember something here. That enraged Somali young man does not walk around with a magic magnifying glass to single out Oromos among refugees during his rampage. Most of the refugees are Oromos but not all of them. The attacks on Ethiopian refugees is said to have taken place both in Somalia and Somaliland itself. I call upon the leaders of both Somalia and Somaliland to protect the refugees in their countries. Doing harm to refugees is against the Geneva Conventions and Somalia is a signatory of those binding international laws. It is a crime against humanity. You need to deploy your security personnel and protect the innocent refugees in your jurisdictions. Also you have to come out and condemn such cruel behavior.

  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. Abiye , he is failed leader and war monger, he is destroying ethiopia its self and also wants to destroy Eastern African countries.
    Many wars in ethiopia currently and many people died since he came in office.
    I suggest and I believe many Ethiopians understand PM Abiye actions are wrong .

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