Mogadish, SOMALIA – In a move that has significant implications for regional politics in the Horn of Africa, the President of the self-declared Somaliland Republic, Muse Bihi, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This groundbreaking agreement, which involves Somaliland providing a 20KM wide sea access to landlocked Ethiopia in exchange for potential recognition, marks a pivotal moment in the geopolitics of the region and raises questions about sovereignty, regional stability, and the future of Somaliland’s bid for independence.
President Muse Bihi’s announcement that Somaliland will lease a portion of its coastal territory to Ethiopia without specifying the lease duration signifies a strategic geopolitical maneuver. This agreement, which comes as Ethiopia seeks sovereign access to the sea, could make Ethiopia the first country to recognize Somaliland. However, this arrangement raises concerns about the loss of sovereignty for both Somaliland and the wider Somalia.
The Somaliland-Ethiopia MoU timing is notable, coming shortly after the meeting between Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Muse Bihi in Djibouti. While the Somali government framed these discussions as steps toward reunification, Somaliland officials claimed the focus was on formalizing their separation. This discrepancy suggests that Somaliland’s push for independence may find unexpected support, even from within Mogadishu.
Territorial Disputes and Regional Stability
A crucial aspect of this development is the territorial control in regions where Somaliland’s authority is contested. The eastern part of British Somaliland is currently under the control of the SSC Khatumo movement, while Puntland governs the eastern part of the Sanaag region. These areas are inhabited by clans that reject the Somaliland project, indicating potential challenges in delineating borders if a separation occurs. Such a process could lead to further bloodshed and destabilization in an already fragile region.
The agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia, and the potential recognition of Somaliland’s independence, could have far-reaching effects on the stability of the Horn of Africa. If Somaliland’s bid for independence gains traction, it could inspire similar movements in other regions, potentially leading to further fragmentation and conflict. The response of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to these developments will be critical in determining the region’s future stability.
The FGS’s Response and Local Dynamics
The FGS’s reaction to these developments and its strategy to address nationalist and local concerns will be crucial. How it navigates these complex issues will significantly impact its authority and the perception of its leadership both domestically and internationally. Moreover, the reaction within the affected regions, particularly among local populations and clans, will influence the success of any agreements and the long-term stability of the area.
The MoU between Somaliland and Ethiopia represents a critical juncture in the Horn of Africa’s political landscape. It challenges the traditional notions of sovereignty and territorial integrity within the region and could reshape the geopolitical dynamics significantly. As Somaliland pursues international recognition and Ethiopia seeks strategic sea access, regional and international stakeholders will closely watch the outcomes of these developments. The path ahead is fraught with complexity and potential pitfalls, but it also presents opportunities for new alliances and geopolitical reconfigurations in the Horn of Africa.