Somalia Plans to Remove Ethiopian Troops Over Port Dispute

Somalia aims to remove thousands of Ethiopian soldiers from its territory by the end of the year unless Ethiopia ends a controversial port agreement with Somaliland, a self-declared independent region, a Somali official announced on Monday.

Experts Fear Increased Instability

Analysts and diplomats warn this action could destabilize Somalia further. Local forces might struggle to maintain security, giving al Shabaab, an extremist group, opportunities to gain ground.

Ethiopian Soldiers Combat al Shabaab

Approximately 3,000 Ethiopian troops are part of an African Union peacekeeping mission (ATMIS) fighting al Shabaab in Somalia. Additionally, between 5,000 and 7,000 Ethiopian soldiers are present under a separate bilateral deal.

Relations Sour Over Somaliland Agreement

Relations between Somalia and Ethiopia have deteriorated after Ethiopia decided to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline from Somaliland. Although Somaliland has functioned independently since 1991, it lacks international recognition. Ethiopia offered potential recognition to Somaliland in return for establishing a naval base and commercial port, a move Somalia condemned as illegal.

Somalia Issues Ultimatum

“If they don’t revoke the deal by the end of June or when the new mission mandate is set, all Ethiopian troops must leave,” Somalia’s national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali told Reuters by phone. “Ethiopia cannot be both a partner and an adversary.”

No Comment from Ethiopian Authorities

Requests for comments from Ethiopian government and military officials went unanswered.

ATMIS Withdrawal Timeline

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), mandated by the U.N. Security Council, is scheduled to withdraw and hand over security responsibilities to Somalia by the end of 2024. However, Somalia has requested multiple times that this withdrawal be delayed due to ongoing battles against al Shabaab. Troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia currently participate.

Somalia’s Request for Future Missions

A new, smaller peacekeeping mission is expected to be announced by the end of June. Somalia has requested that Ethiopian soldiers not be included in this new mission, according to diplomats from the African Union and African nations familiar with the plans.

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