The agreement between Ethiopia’s PM and a breakaway part of Somalia is raising tension in the Horn of Africa


The recent agreement between Ethiopia and a breakaway part of Somalia has emerged as a source of heightened tension in the already volatile Horn of Africa. This event not only weakens the continuing attempts to establish peace in Somalia but also presents a significant risk to the stability of the global security measures against the terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab. The deal, which has faced extensive criticism, seems to neglect the concepts of territorial integrity and sovereignty, causing fears about the possibility of more destabilisation in the area. Ethiopia will likely intensify ongoing disputes and worsening tensions by involving itself with a breakaway part of Somalia, impeding any potential for long-lasting progress and harmony in Somalia. 

The ramifications of this accord transcend the local area and have a worldwide impact on counterterrorism endeavours, namely in the battle against Al-Shabaab. Somalia has been a significant focus of the international community’s attempts to tackle the danger presented by this extremist faction. The destabilisation of Somalia, as a result of accords like this one, has the potential to create a vacuum that enables Al-Shabaab to reorganise and enhance its operations, presenting a direct threat to world security. In essence, the agreement between Ethiopia and breakaway part of Somalia is problematic because it not only hinders the attempts to establish peace in Somalia but also weakens the broader global security measures against the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. It is imperative for the international community to diligently observe and tackle the developing situation to avert any further escalation and safeguard the stability of the Horn of Africa. Although the agreement is not yet a legally binding document, the United States, the African Union, the EU, Arab League, and the IGAD bloc in East Africa are all worried that it might lead to more divisions in an area where violence and humanitarian problems are already commonplace.

Is Ethiopian Seeking commercial access or a naval base?

The recent geopolitical actions of Ethiopia in the Red Sea area have generated conjecture over its underlying motives as observers discuss whether the nation is merely pursuing economic access or considering the creation of a naval base. The Horn of Africa has emerged as a central area of interest for major world powers, and it is crucial to closely analyse Ethiopia’s geopolitical location within this region. The Red Sea’s geopolitical terrain is intricate, as influential actors like China, the United States, and Gulf states compete for power and influence. Ethiopia’s possible endeavour to establish a naval station is a reaction to the changing circumstances, as the nation aims to safeguard its interests and maintain a competitive advantage in the area. Establishing a naval facility would be a significant strategic advancement for Ethiopia since maritime strength is closely linked to geopolitical influence on a worldwide scale. 

In 1993, Ethiopia became the land-locked nation after losing all its Red Sea ports to Eritrea, which earned independence after a 30-year war of freedom. Ethiopia, Ethiopia, has since actively pursued opportunities to get economic access to the sea by forming relationships with neighbouring countries such as Djibouti. Nevertheless, the decision to see Somalia as a prospective maritime ally prompts questions about the underlying justification for this choice. The Prime Minister’s exclusive emphasis on the Red Sea and involvement with Somalia breakaway region, without agreement from the Somali Federal Government, gives rise to significant apprehensions over diplomatic procedures, regional stability, and the possibility of intensifying preexisting tensions. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to bypass established channels and exclude the central government of Somalia from important decisions jeopardises the ideals of cooperation and partnership among neighbouring states. Among the 55 nations in Africa, 16 of them lack direct access to the sea. These landlocked countries include Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, South Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Furthermore, they extend their operations to other adjacent maritime entry points.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s determination to pursue commercial access to the sea, especially considering the planned naval ship base, raises critical issues. This change invites examination of the fundamental causes and strategic concerns influencing this substantial development. Nevertheless, introducing a naval ship base adds intricacy to this storyline. The existence of a naval base prompts inquiries about the extent of Ethiopia’s aspirations in the maritime domain. Is the nation aiming to secure economic entry and establish its presence in the geopolitical sphere? Using naval resources implies a more extensive strategic purpose, including regional security concerns or force projection beyond economic goals. Moreover, a thorough analysis is required to understand the reasoning for selecting a naval ship base. Comprehending the underlying reasons for this choice is essential in ascertaining whether it mainly aims to achieve economic or security goals. Regarding the maritime ship base’s suitability for dominant regional power and geopolitical interests, it is necessary to consider its strategic positioning and operational capabilities within that specific framework.

The possibility of Ethiopia gaining access to the Red Sea poses a multifaceted geopolitical situation with significant consequences. Although improved marine access may potentially propel Ethiopia to the position of a dominating regional power, the overall effect on the area may not necessarily be beneficial. Furthermore, with its secessionist portion, the situation in Somalia adds a complex element to this developing storyline. The situation in Somalia, especially with its secessionist portion, adds a level of intricacy to the regional dynamics. The growing influence of Ethiopia may transform the breakaway territory into a focal point for proxy warfare, where foreign forces might use local disputes to further their strategic objectives. Such actions not only extend the duration of the Somali population’s distress but also pose a threat of transforming the area into a breeding ground for instability, drawing in extremist factions and further undermining efforts to achieve enduring peace.

The necessary steps required from the Somali Government

The Somali federal government is now at a crucial point, confronted with complex issues that need prompt and deliberate measures to ensure the stability and independence of the country. To prevent a possible catastrophe, it is crucial to promptly carry out the following actions: the removal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia, the denial of access to Somali airspace, and the immediate establishment of alliances, notably with countries such as Turkey. First and foremost, the removal of Ethiopian soldiers is of utmost importance for the autonomy and internal peace of Somalia. The presence of Ethiopian military forces inside Somalia’s borders gives rise to worries over the nation’s sovereignty and the federal government’s capacity to control its affairs autonomously. The Somali government should initiate diplomatic consultations with United Nation, the EU, Arab League, and the AU to arrange a systematic withdrawal that guarantees a seamless transition while maintaining security. 

Furthermore, denying access to Somali airspace is crucial to protect national interests. The free access granted to foreign forces in Somali airspace weakens the nation’s autonomy and presents significant security dangers. The federal government must exercise over its airspace, ensuring compliance with rules that align with its strategic objectives and the area’s stability. Moreover, given the perceived danger from Ethiopia, it becomes crucial to actively seek out friends, with a particular emphasis on possible partners such as Turkey. Forging strategic partnerships may provide Somalia with diplomatic backing, military collaboration, and economic aid. Due to its increasing prominence in the area, Turkey has the potential to be a significant ally for Somalia. It may provide a counterweight to foreign pressures and strengthen Somalia’s standing in the world arena. 

In conclusion, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to secure commercial sea access may fulfil economic needs, but developing a naval ship base adds complex aspects to the conversation. An in-depth analysis is essential to comprehend the reasons behind these actions; the strategic consequences, the possible regional effects and Ethiopia’s changing involvement in maritime matters. Although Ethiopia’s ability to reach the Red Sea might enhance its position as a prominent regional force, it is crucial to acknowledge the possible adverse consequences for the Horn of Africa. The potential risks of regional instability, weapons races, and the region becoming a proxy war emphasises the necessity for a careful and thorough strategy to manage the many difficulties that may result from geopolitical upheavals in Somalia’s breakaway territory.

MOHAMED H. SALAD is a researcher and Analyst of International Security & Peace Conflict Studies Specialist in the Horn of Africa
Twitter: @Mhirsisalad