Somaliland-Ethiopia naval base agreement nears completion amid Mogadishu opposition

Hargaysa (Raxanreeb )- Officials from Somaliland and Ethiopia are on the brink of finalizing an agreement that could mark a significant shift in regional dynamics, despite opposition from Mogadishu.

The proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) entails Ethiopia establishing a naval base along Somaliland’s coastline, potentially accompanied by recognition of Somaliland’s sovereignty, as revealed by Dr. Essa Kayd, Somaliland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Negotiations, initiated four months ago following a memorandum signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi, have progressed steadily. Minister Kayd informed Deutsche Welle that while the process experienced a temporary slowdown during Ramadan, he anticipates its conclusion within the next two months.

Addressing concerns voiced by Somalia’s Federal Government, Dr. Issa expressed confidence in the agreement’s resilience against external pressures.

Somaliland president Muse Bihi Abdi and Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed signed MOU on January 1, 2024. | PHOTO/ File.
Somaliland president Muse Bihi Abdi and Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed signed MOU on January 1, 2024. | PHOTO/ File.

“President Hassan Sheikh and his team have been trying to get the MOU rejected… But I don’t think there is any chance that they will be able to do that,” he stated.

Central to the agreement’s rationale is the strategic significance of the Gulf of Aden, plagued by illegal activities ranging from piracy to wildlife trafficking.

Dr. Isa Kaid underscored the necessity of Ethiopia’s presence in combating these challenges and affirmed Somaliland’s support in facilitating such efforts.

The potential recognition of Somaliland’s sovereignty by Ethiopia holds promise for economic growth and international engagement.

Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire emphasized the transformative impact such recognition could have, citing opportunities for investment, trade, and access to international financial institutions.

With regard to the naval base agreement, Minister Kaid disclosed that three potential locations along Somaliland’s 850-kilometer coastline have been identified for Ethiopia’s consideration.

However, specific details remain undisclosed pending further discussions between the two parties.

Opposition to the MOU has been voiced by Somalia’s Federal Government and echoed by the Group of Seven (G7) countries, who have urged dialogue between Somalia and Ethiopia to address concerns regarding territorial integrity.

Despite these challenges, the imminent finalization of the Somaliland-Ethiopia naval base agreement signals a potential reshaping of regional alliances and underscores the complexities of geopolitical dynamics in the Horn of Africa.

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