Ethiopia absents itself from Berbera port expansion ceremonies despite 19% stake

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Dr Abiy could have struck another major diplomatic coup if he attended the Berbera port-related events in person and championed the right of the Somaliland nation to self-determination to establish his independence of influence and stout belief in workable change

Ethiopia and its leadership at both state and federal level absented themselves from the ground-laying occasion held in Berbera on Wednesday and the signing and award of the construction contract for the planned expansion of Berbera quays which was held on Thursday at the Somaliland presidency with the President himself officiating.

Even the Head of the Ethiopia Mission in Somaliland, Brigadier General Berhe Tesfaye graced neither event.

“Ethiopia fully endorses the port expansion. There is no change or alteration of any part of the agreement that we had entered with DP World and the 19% allotted us, either,” the Consul told Mohamoud Walaaleeye, a freelancer, later.

General Berhe stated that there was no substance to what Mr. Noradin Dini, Aviation Secretary for the Somaliland Waddani party said about the Ethiopian absence alleging that Ethiopia had retracted its commitment to Berbera port development.

The Ethiopian Consulate lies next to the Presidency.

Dr. Saad Ali Shire, the Somaliland Foreign Minister could not credibly dispel the growing concern born of Ethiopia’s skipping of events.

Neither the Minister nor the Ethiopian Consul’s assertion did not allay, however, a sharp lash out from national and regional political observers. That the said, long-term stake in the port development did not even warrant the presence of the Consul-General at the two very important occasions was a slur to both Somaliland and the UAE, critics were quick to point out.Image result for Ethiopia gets a stake in Berbera

“Ethiopia has a signed stake at Berbera and that stake is based on a need its has for an outlet at the Red Sea port, and not on a favor it was doing anybody,” the Minister said, according to reports that came out on local media outlets Friday and Saturday.

“The Republic of Somaliland has stood guard over an extensive, porous border with Ethiopia since 1991, and the previous administrations of prime ministers Meles Zenawi and Deselagn acknowledged and respected Somaliland for that,” one critic noted, adding that since Dr. Abiy Ahmed took over relations between the two countries seem to have taken another hue, colored differently from the Ethiopian side.

Officially unconfirmed sources had led everybody to believe that Federal Minister Ahmed Shide and the President of the Somali State, Mustafa Omar, were coming to attend the Berbera port expansion events. They did not. Neither was the absence explained anywhere.

Dr. Belachew Mekuria (Photo Credit: Addis Standard)

A Somaliland-born journalist, Mohamed Abdi Hassan ‘Diredewa’, posted on his Facebook page that Dr. Belachew Mekuria, the former Head of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), had in a letter he wrote in June 2018 apprised the Dubai-owned DP World that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had put all foreign investments the country entered with foreign nationals and entities on moratorium, pending comprehensive reviews of all said investment commitments.

The Ethiopian absence is – however one looks at it – an intentional put-down to, not only Somaliland and the implementing company DP World which sold it the stake, but to the United Arab Emirates, as a whole.

“The UAE has bailed out Dr. Abiy Ahmed with an unconditional 2 billion Dollars earlier in the year when it needed it most,” another analyst told Somtribune, “but, apparently, Ethiopia did not reciprocate disdainfully biting the very hand that proffered it assistance”.

“Instead of so conspicuously dropping out of a major event that was of major economic, security and political import to his country, Dr Abiy could have struck another major diplomatic coup if he attended the port-related events in person in person and championed the right of the Somaliland nation to self-determination to establish his independence of influence and stout belief in workable change,” he added.

Apart from the Consul’s lame attempt to explain the Ethiopian view, no official statement has yet been released by Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian absence, furthermore, enormously delighted Somalia leaders in Mogadishu whose government and parliament both vehemently opposed the Berbera development projects.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia Acquires 19% Stake in DP World Berbera Port, Government becomes strategic shareholder, investing in Berbera trade corridor infrastructure: Media Release

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