The statement, issued on February 11, 2024, underscores the foundational principles of the accord as “mutual respect” and “aspirations for greater regional stability.”

On the same day, the government of Somalia called on the African Union (AU) and the United Nations to condemn the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Ethiopia and “the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland,” branding it as “illegal” and a “clear violation of Somalia’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity.”

Somalia argues that no regional administration, including Somaliland, has the authority to enter into agreements with foreign nations without federal consent. The Somali government has officially nullified the MoU, considering it “null and void,” and has committed to taking “all necessary measures” to prevent its implementation.

Furthermore, Somalia has asserted that the agreement poses a destabilizing factor in the Horn of Africa, posing an “existential threat” to the African Union’s core principles of safeguarding member states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Somalia has called on the AU and UN to denounce what it perceives as Ethiopia’s “unwarranted aggression”.

Furthermore, Somalia has raised apprehensions that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) could jeopardize recent progress made by the federal government, including debt relief, the removal of the UN arms embargo, and joining the East African Community trade bloc.

The East African country warned that the MoU, not being legally binding, might offer Al Shabaab an opportunity to exploit divisions and undermine the progress achieved in counterterrorism efforts.

In response, Somaliland has accused Somalia of blatantly ignoring international law and the “inherent right to self-determination” of Somalilanders. Moreover, it emphasized that the MoU upholds the territorial integrity of all parties involved and promotes peaceful relations and cooperation.

Furthermore, Somaliland has called on Somalia to abandon outdated claims regarding its status and respect the collective will of the people of Somaliland. It restated its stance as an independent nation, governed by its own constitution and democratic principles, allowing it to enter into agreements with willing partners, contingent upon legislative approval.

It is worth noting that Ethiopia and Somaliland signed a deal last month that grants Ethiopia access to naval and commercial ports along Somaliland’s coast, in exchange for recognition of the breakaway republic’s independence.

Here is what you need to know

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in the early 1990s, amid Somalia’s prolonged civil war. Over three decades later, Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, has actively sought international recognition within the borders of the former British protectorate. Formal recognition by Ethiopia could offer Somaliland its most significant opportunity yet to address its longstanding international isolation.

Ethiopia lost access to its Red Sea ports in the early 1990s when Eritrean forces, controlling Ethiopia’s northern coastal region, declared independence from the country. Ethiopia, heavily dependent on Djibouti for international trade, sought to diversify its options to mitigate vulnerability, expressing interest in acquiring access to ports along East Africa’s seaboard since October. On that note, Ethiopia’s assertion of rights and signaling its interest in Red Sea ports have raised concerns among its neighbors.

In a televised address, Abiy stated that Ethiopia should have a say in using the Red Sea ports of its coastal neighbors, drawing parallels to countries downstream along the Nile River negotiating the use of the river, where Ethiopia has built a dam to generate power.

Al Mayadeen