Somalia rejects mediation efforts with Ethiopia over port deal

Hon of Africa News

Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about Addis Ababa’s agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland, as regional heads of state gathered on Thursday to try to defuse a growing diplomatic crisis.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed on Jan. 1, Ethiopia would consider recognising Somaliland’s independence in return for gaining access to the Red Sea, partly through the port lease.

Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about Addis Ababa’s agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland, as regional heads of state gathered on Thursday to try to defuse a growing diplomatic crisis.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed on Jan. 1, Ethiopia would consider recognising Somaliland’s independence in return for gaining access to the Red Sea, partly through the port lease.

Under the deal, which still has to be finalised, Ethiopia would lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastland around the port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden, for 50 years for military and commercial purposes.

Ethiopia’s current main port for maritime exports is in the neighbouring country of Djibouti.

Heads of state from a regional group, the eight-member Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), met in Entebbe, Uganda, on Thursday to seek a peaceful solution.

Those in attendance included the presidents of Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan as well as the leader of the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

AL-SHABAAB FEARS

The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, who attended as an observer along with the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, said the MOU threatened to further undermine regional security and had been weaponized by Al Shabaab militants.

“We have already seen troubling indications that al-Shabaab is using the MOU to generate new recruits,” he told delegates in Uganda, according to a copy of the remarks seen by Reuters.

Ethiopia did not send a delegation, saying it was informed too late about the summit.

At a news conference on Thursday, Ambassador Meles Alem, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs spokesperson, rejected a statement by the Arab League on Wednesday that called the MOU “a clear violation of international law”.

“The statement is a disservice to the organisation itself as well as member countries. More than anything it shows a disregard to Africans,” Meles said.

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