Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, has shown his backing for Somalia in a disagreement involving a proposal from the northern breakaway region of Somaliland. The proposal suggests granting land-locked Ethiopia access to its coast in return for acknowledging its independence.
During a press conference in Cairo with Somalia’s president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Sisi made his most forceful statement yet on the issue, declaring, “I want to make it clear to Ethiopia that attempting to claim and control land is unacceptable to everyone.”
He stated that his nation is prepared to offer assistance in the event of an attack on an Arab country, particularly if our fellow nations request our support. This has raised concerns that Cairo may become embroiled in a growing conflict between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa.
The relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia has worsened since the beginning of January. This was due to a memorandum of understanding between Somaliland and Ethiopia, which disregarded the Somali government. The Somali government has not had control over the self-declared republic since 1991.
Authorities in Somaliland have asserted that the proposed deal would result in Ethiopia obtaining a naval base on its Gulf of Aden shore in return for complete recognition. Ethiopia has kept quiet about this aspect of the agreement amidst increasing global pressure, although some officials have implied their backing for Somaliland’s independence.
During a recent interview with the Observer, Essa Kayd, the foreign minister of Somaliland, stated that without being recognized as an independent state, there will be no progress. He also mentioned that Ethiopia requires access to the sea and Somaliland needs recognition, making it clear that these needs can be addressed.
Since 1993, Ethiopia has been without a coastline due to Eritrea’s secession, causing the country to heavily depend on Djibouti for all its foreign commerce.
Somalia has mobilised the support of its international partners since Ethiopia and Somaliland announced the deal on New Year’s Day. Egypt, which has seen its own ties with Ethiopia deteriorate over a dam that Ethiopia has built on the Blue Nile, has been vocal in its opposition to the memorandum.
On Wednesday, Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, stated that Ethiopia is causing instability in the area and urged them to uphold Somalia’s territorial boundaries.
The Somali government has refused to consider mediation with Ethiopia regarding the agreement until Addis Ababa renounces the pact and changes its position on the memorandum. Somali officials have accused this memorandum of being an effort to “take over” their land.
At the Non-Aligned Movement summit, the Somali president brought up the topic of an agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia. He expressed concern that this agreement would give Ethiopia control over a corridor to build a naval base on Somalia’s coastline, which he believes is a violation of Somalia’s sovereignty.
Leaders from various countries in the area came together in Uganda on Thursday for a conference convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional organization in East Africa, to address the consequences of the memorandum.
The leader of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, was not physically present, but the organization in which Ethiopia holds considerable sway released a carefully worded statement urging all members to honor each other’s autonomy and territorial boundaries.
John Kirby, the US national security spokesperson, shared on Wednesday that he is worried about rising tension between Somalia and Ethiopia. Somalia has issued a threat of war, which could potentially hinder overall efforts to combat al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in Somalia.