Ethiopia makes a deal for sea access with Somaliland

Featured image: Map of the Horn of Africa, with Somaliland indicated. Source: AFP

On the 1st of January Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for leasing a port from Somaliland to acquire access to the Gulf of Aden. Since October, the Ethiopian Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s aspirations to acquire access to the sea, which it lost in the 1990s with Ethiopia gaining its international recognition as a State, have raised concerns of increasing regional instability.

Ethiopia announced that Somaliland would lease 20 kilometers of the sea coast to it for military and commercial purposes. Other details of the deal were not disclosed. A MoU is not legally binding, but indicates intent and paves the way for a treaty.

Somalia immediately protested the deal, calling it an aggression against its sovereignty and called back its ambassador in Ethiopia, vowing to defend itself against any violations of its territorial integrity.

Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia 30 years ago but is internationally not recognized as a sovereign State, but a part of Somalia. In relation to the deal made, Abiy Ahmed promised that Ethiopia would recognize Somaliland’s sovereignty “some time in the future”, and Somaliland’s foreign ministry called the agreement a diplomatic milestone.

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