Somalia leader in Eritrea after Ethiopia-Somaliland pact

AFP , Tuesday 9 Jan 2024

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was visiting Eritrea on Monday, just a week after the breakaway region of Somaliland reached a deal with Ethiopia that has raised tensions in the Horn of Africa.

Somali MPs listen to the speech of the president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Somali MPs listen to the speech of the president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. AP


Somalia has vehemently rejected the agreement, which gives landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea through Somaliland -- a separatist northwestern region over which Mogadishu exercises little real authority.

Mohamud's arrival in Asmara was announced by his office and the Eritrean information ministry in separate posts on X, accompanied by pictures of him being welcomed by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

"The two leaders will discuss issues of mutual benefit for both nations including strengthening ties & fostering cooperation," Mohamud's office said.

Somalia has branded the surprise memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on January 1 in Addis Ababa an act of "aggression" and a violation of its sovereignty and appealed for international support.

The African Union and the United States have called for calm and respect for Somalia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but the move has not been recognised internationally and is staunchly opposed by the central government in Mogadishu.

Ethiopia has long sought coastal access and in October last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed alarmed its neighbours when he said the country's existence was tied to the Red Sea.

The remarks came against a backdrop of apparent tensions with Eritrea, which had allied with Ethiopian government forces in the two-year Tigray war that ended in November 2022.

Abiy later said Ethiopia would not invade any neighbouring country while insisting his government would not abandon its demand for port access.

The January 1 pact gives Ethiopia access to commercial maritime services and a military base, with Somaliland leasing 20 kilometres (12 miles) of coastline for 50 years.

Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa and one of the biggest landlocked nations in the world was cut off from the coast after Eritrea seceded and declared independence in 1993 following a three-decade war.

Dubbed the "North Korea" of Africa, Eritrea -- which has been ruled with an iron fist by Isaias since independence -- is one of the world's most isolated states.

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