Mogadishu, SOMALIA – The agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, granting Ethiopia sea access in exchange for recognizing Somaliland, has sparked a flurry of reactions across the country. This development, which has significant geopolitical implications, has been met with a spectrum of responses from political leaders, militant groups, and the public, especially within Somalia and its Somaliland regions.
In response to the burgeoning controversy, the Somali cabinet is convening an extraordinary meeting to address this issue. This meeting is expected to shape Somalia’s official response to the agreement and will be crucial in determining the future course of action.
Similarly, on social media, the public reaction among Somaliland citizens to Ethiopia’s quest for sea access has been overwhelmingly negative. Many have rejected the agreement, viewing it as a compromise on Somaliland’s sovereignty. This public outcry reflects the deep-seated concerns about the implications of such a deal for Somaliland’s future.
High-Profile Responses to the Agreement
Former Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo expressed serious reservations about the Ethiopia-Somaliland sea access agreement, emphasizing the importance of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity. He stated, “The agreement signed by Ethiopia with Somaliland today is a serious concern for Somalia and the whole of Africa. Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the anchor for regional stability and bilateral cooperation. The Somali government must respond appropriately.” This statement reflects the deep concerns regarding regional stability and the precedence this agreement might set.
Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, a prominent Somali political figure, took to social media to voice his disapproval. Posting on X, he accused the Ethiopian government under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of violating Somali sovereignty and disregarding international norms set by the UN, AU, and IGAD. His comments highlight the perceived infringement on Somalia’s national integrity by Ethiopia and the potential disruption of regional order by illegally going through a region within Somalia to gain access to the sea.
Farah Juxa, the Minister of the Interior in Puntland, also expressed his discontent on social media. Over a picture of Ismail Omar Gelle, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and Muse Bihi signing the Djibouti Agreement, he wrote, “The Somali sons who betrayed us and crossed ‘THE RED LINE’ – Just for the record.” This statement illustrates the sentiment of betrayal felt by some Somali leaders and the perception of crossing a significant diplomatic boundary.
The militant group Al-Shabab also joined the chorus of condemnation, denouncing the agreement as a betrayal by Muse Bihi and Hassan Sheikh. They warned that the 20 KM sea access concession is a stepping stone towards Ethiopia’s complete takeover of Somalia. This reaction raises questions about Al-Shabab’s policy of non-aggression towards Somaliland and how this new development might affect their stance.
Potential Regional Repercussions
The Ethiopian-Somaliland agreement is a complex geopolitical maneuver with far-reaching implications. On one hand, it represents Ethiopia’s continued quest for sovereign sea access, a strategic move to bolster its economic and geopolitical standing. On the other hand, it puts Somaliland’s long-sought international recognition within reach, potentially altering the dynamics of its quest for independence.
This agreement to grant Ethiopia sea access could significantly shift the balance of power in the Horn of Africa. The reactions from various political entities and groups indicate a potential escalation of regional tensions. The fear of Ethiopia’s growing influence in Somalia, coupled with concerns about the territorial integrity of Somali regions, could lead to increased instability.
The Somali government’s response and the outcome of the cabinet meeting will therefore be pivotal in navigating this diplomatic quagmire. It is imperative for regional actors, including the African Union and international stakeholders, to engage proactively to ensure that this development does not exacerbate existing tensions but instead paves the way for a constructive dialogue respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all involved nations.
The Ethiopia-Somaliland sea access agreement therefore presents a critical test for regional diplomacy in the Horn of Africa. Balancing the aspirations of Somaliland for recognition, Ethiopia’s strategic interests, and Somalia’s concerns about sovereignty and territorial integrity will require nuanced and thoughtful diplomacy. As the situation unfolds, the reactions and decisions of regional leaders will play a decisive role in shaping the future of the Horn of Africa.