Legal Analysis: Ethiopia-Somaliland Agreement Deemed Lawful

Political analyst Matt Bryden has backed Ethiopia’s recent recognition of Somaliland, arguing that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on January 1, 2024, meets international legal standards. This agreement grants Ethiopia strategic access to the Red Sea through Berbera Port and a military base, raising tensions with Somalia, which claims Somaliland as its own.

However, Bryden’s support for the MoU has stirred controversy due to his troubled relationship with the Somali government. He was declared persona non grata in 2018 and sentenced in absentia to five years in 2021 for allegedly leaking state secrets. Bryden and his organization, Sahan Research, have denied these charges, calling them politically motivated.

During an interview with Ethiopia State Television, Bryden, an expert in Horn of Africa politics, stated that “Somaliland fulfills the traditional criteria for statehood recognition: a permanent population, a defined territory, and an effective government capable of engaging in foreign diplomacy and governing its populace, despite some internal challenges.”

The agreement promises infrastructural development by Ethiopia, connecting the military base to the port and potentially collaborating in the education and health sectors. In addition to sovereign recognition, Somaliland stands to gain significant economic benefits and infrastructural investments, potentially acquiring shares in major Ethiopian corporations such as Ethiopia Airlines or EthioTelecom.

However, the deal has faced strong opposition from Somalia, which sees it as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This sentiment is shared by international entities such as the Arab League, the European Union, and the United States, all of which have called for dialogue and urged a peaceful resolution.

Earlier this month, Somalia expelled Ethiopia’s ambassador and closed Ethiopia’s consulates in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s largest city and capital, and Garowe, the capital of Puntland’s semi-autonomous region.

Despite strong opposition and reports of a stalled Memorandum of Understanding, Somaliland has vowed to proceed with the agreement with Ethiopia.

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