Cairo- A new front of tension looms on the horizon between Egypt and Ethiopia, following the latter’s signing of an agreement that it described as “historic” with…Somaliland“(Separatism) provides it with a sea outlet through the port of Berbera on the Red Sea.
Egypt quickly rejected the agreement, and demanded that Addis Ababa refrain from engaging in unilateral measures that would increase tensions and expose the interests and national security of the countries of the region to risks and threats.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry affirmed – in a statement last Wednesday – its opposition to “any measures that would undermine Somali sovereignty,” stressing “the necessity of full respect for the unity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Somalia over its entire territory.”
Egypt considered that the increase in what it called “official movements, procedures, and statements issued by countries in the region and outside it” undermines the factors of stability in the Horn of Africa region, and increases the tensions between its countries.
Egypt bases its rejection of the agreement on the fact that it violates the objectives of the founding lawTo the African Unionincluding “defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of member states,” and the Union’s principles which stipulate “the necessity of respecting the existing borders upon achieving independence, and that no member state should interfere in the internal affairs of another state.”
Days before the end of 2023, Egypt announced the end of a negotiation process AlNahda dam Between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, after the end of a fourth and final meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Cairo blamed Addis Ababa for the failure of the negotiations, due to its positions refusing to adopt any of the intermediate technical and legal solutions that would secure the interests of the three countries, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, in addition to the Ethiopian side’s persistence in retracting the understandings that had been reached, in order to meet its declared interests.
A Somali refused and an African waited
The Somali government took the initiative to strongly reject the agreement between “Somaliland” and Ethiopia from the first moments, and summoned its ambassador in Addis Ababa for consultations, and Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre confirmed that his country “will defend its lands by all possible legal means.”
Days after the agreement was rejected, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced, on Saturday evening, the cancellation of a memorandum of understanding between the administration of the Northern Region “Somaliland” and Ethiopia, which stipulated granting Addis Ababa a military and commercial maritime outlet through its territory.
But the position of the African Union was not decisive, as the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for “calm and mutual respect to calm the escalating tension between the governments of Ethiopia and Somalia,” according to a statement published by the commission’s website.
It is noteworthy that the Somaliland region “Somaliland” has not received international recognition since it declared independence in 1991, and Somalia considers the region part of its territory.
Under the memorandum of understanding, Ethiopia will obtain a sea port in the Berbera port area, which is expected to be used for military and commercial purposes, and Somaliland may also acquire shares in Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa.
Following the signing of the agreement, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office said Abiy Ahmed – Via the X platform – the agreement “will open the way to achieving Ethiopia’s aspiration to secure its access to the sea and diversify its access to sea ports,” adding that the agreement “strengthens the security, economic and political partnership of the two signatory parties.”
And it was Ethiopia It turned into a landlocked country far from water sources after independence Eritrea In 1993, it lost a sustainable and sovereign sea port on the Red Sea, through the ports of Assab and Massawa.
Since then, it has relied on Djibouti for its international trade, as more than 95% of its imports and exports pass through the Addis Ababa-Djibouti corridor, amounting to $1.5 billion annually, at a time when it is facing a crisis in repaying its debts.
Justifications for Cairo's concern
The expert on African affairs and national security, Major General Mohamed Abdel Wahed, says, “Egypt has been keen since the 1990s to refuse to support separatist entities in Africa, so as not to open the door to other entities in Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia.” He added, “I visited Somaliland in the 1990s, and I met Its president at the time, Ibrahim Aqal, assured me of their keenness for unity, and that there were those pushing for secession.”
The expert considered, in his speech to Al Jazeera Net, that “the danger of that agreement is not in establishing a commercial port, but rather the goal is to establish a military base within the strategy of Abiy Ahmed (Prime Minister of Ethiopia) to reach sea ports, in places in neighboring countries, and it is part of Western support.” “This expansion worries Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti, taking into account their hostile positions toward Egypt and the attempt to harm their water security.”
Abdel Wahed believed that “this cannot be understood in isolation from the developments of the situation in the Horn of Africa, and the international and regional support for moving in this direction, as Western countries are betting on increasing Ethiopian influence in Africa.” He mentioned about the history of Ethiopia that it “was the wall of resistance to the Arab-Islamic tide to Southern Africa, which explains that it was only occupied for 5 years in its entire history by Italy, and the Western community stood up and did not sit down at that time, and imposed harsh sanctions on Rome.”
Ethiopia and its Prime Minister look at the region Horn of Africa The Nile Basin and the Great Lakes are considered a region of regional influence, according to the security expert, and Western countries help him in this, by supporting him and awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, despite the security crises internally and with neighboring countries, and the crises of exploiting water resources with those countries through the construction of dams on rivers. Going to Egypt, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia.
Amani Al-Taweel, director of the African Program at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, believes that “there is not only Egyptian rejection of the Ethiopian move – which is non-commercial – which contradicts the most basic principles of the founding law of the African Union, which stipulates the defense of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of member states.”
Al-Taweel added to Al-Jazeera Net, “Regardless of the port crisis that Ethiopia wants to establish, the problem lies in recognizing Somaliland, and dealing with it individually, away from the Somali central authority, which means a threat to the state of Somalia, which is a country with an important geopolitical location, with its view of the Bab Strait.” Mandab, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
Regarding Egypt’s options to reject such a step, and whether it remains within the limits of issuing a statement of condemnation and denunciation, she explained that there are other steps such as “exerting pressure on Somaliland to stop such an agreement, and supporting and supporting Somalia in not recognizing this agreement on the other hand.”
Al-Taweel downplayed the impact of the African Union’s approach to playing a strong role in pushing countries that violate the Union’s principles, claiming that it did not provide any radical solutions to many of the crises that African countries are going through, such as the Renaissance Dam crisis for example, noting that “the presence of a military base “Ethiopia on the Red Sea represents a threat to national and navigational security in it, because it is a conflictual and non-cooperative relationship.”