Somaliland-Ethiopia Deal Aims to Secure Navigation and Gain Recognition

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi announced a controversial deal with Ethiopia that aims to secure “freedom of navigation” in the Red Sea, where international shipping has faced attacks from Houthi rebels. The agreement involves Ethiopia leasing land near the Red Sea in exchange for formally recognizing Somaliland’s independence.

Despite declaring independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has not gained international recognition. The January accord with Ethiopia is seen as a significant step towards this goal. “The historic memorandum of understanding between Somaliland and Ethiopia will provide us with a clear pathway towards international recognition,” President Bihi Abdi said.

Somalia has strongly opposed the deal, with its president insisting that “not an inch” of its territory would be signed away. However, President Bihi Abdi emphasized that the agreement would help support international efforts to secure the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, areas frequently attacked by Houthi rebels.

Ethiopia plans to build a naval military base and commercial port around Berbera, reducing its reliance on Djibouti for sea access. This deal is expected to enhance Ethiopia’s maritime capabilities and support regional security.

The international community, including the US, EU, Arab League, and Egypt, has expressed concerns that this agreement could escalate regional conflicts. Somaliland, however, sees it as a crucial step towards economic growth and stability.

Muse Bihi Abdi, standing for re-election in November, stated that Somalilanders back the deal despite some domestic opposition and resignation from his defense minister. He remains optimistic about achieving international recognition and securing Somaliland’s independent status.

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