Ethiopia sees sea outlet in Somalia as a path to “economic growth”

Abiy Ahmed (right) recognises the mistake of pursuing economic growth through territorial expansionism and ignoring the rules-based global system.

Mogadishu (PP Editorial) — A maritime Memorandum of Understanding agreement signed in January 2024 between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi faces challenges. Ethiopia has verbally revised the terms of the deal.

Ethiopia argues that sea access through Somalia’s coastline can benefit both nations. However, this economic focus worries Somaliland’s leadership and sends a mixed message to Somalia’s federal government. Comments by an Ethiopia’s diplomat at a recent security conference (Navigating the Complexities: Fostering Regional Security in the Horn of Africa) in Addis Ababa omitted the diplomatic recognition that Ethiopia would grant to Somaliland as claimed by Muse Bihi as precondition for a naval base for Ethiopia in Somalia’s northern coast.

Ethiopia needs a dedicated port, which could conflict with the economic interests of both Somaliland administration and Djibouti. This subtle expansionist move by Ethiopia requires Western support, similar to what Emperor Haile Selassie received during the annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia more than six decades ago. The current political situation in Ethiopia is far less stable than it was decades ago.

Ethiopia’s strategy of using economic growth narrative to gain sea access is flawed. Analysts believe the maritime Memorandum of Understanding with the secessionist administration violated international norms, and Ethiopia could face consequences from institutions like the IMF if it disregards the global rules-based system.

“ The emphasis on economic growth for Ethiopia as a means to secure sea access suggests a miscalculation on the part of Abiy Ahmed when he signed a maritime Memorandum of Understanding with the President of the Somaliland administration” said an Ethiopian analyst in Addis Ababa.

© Puntland Post, 2024