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Ethiopia’s Quest for Sea Access
By Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Thursday October 19, 2023


Abyi Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, has been in the spotlight recently due to his remarks about acquiring sea access by force, which has triggered strong opposition in Somalia.  To fully understand the controversy surrounding Abyi Ahmed's comments, it is important to consider the historical context between Ethiopia and Somalia. Both countries have a complex relationship and have been engaged in conflicts and territorial disputes for many years.  Somalia, with its long coastline, has significant maritime resources, including fishing grounds and potential oil reserves. On the other hand, Ethiopia, a landlocked country, has always yearned for its own sea access for economic and strategic reasons. In this context, Abyi Ahmed's statement about acquiring sea access by force is seen as a direct threat to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia. Somalia, already grappling with various internal challenges, sees this remark as an affront to its stability and security.

Any attempt by Ethiopia to forcefully take control of Somali territory would undoubtedly lead to a significant escalation of tensions and could potentially ignite a full-scale war between the two countries. The current climate in the Horn of Africa, with ongoing conflicts in Somalia, Ethiopia's internal political challenges, and regional power struggles, makes the prospect of a military confrontation even more dangerous. The destabilization of Somalia, due to a potential conflict with Ethiopia, could have far-reaching consequences, including the rise of extremist groups and the exacerbation of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.

Recent History

Since Abyi Ahmed came to power, the region has been experiencing a period of renewed diplomatic efforts and cooperation, with the signing of peace agreements, economic partnerships, and the resolution of long-standing dispute with Eritrea.  Through their joint efforts, Eritrea and Ethiopia have showcased to the world that even bitter conflicts can be overcome, and long-lasting peace and prosperity can be achieved when neighbors choose unity over division. The progress made so far serves as a testament to the power of reconciliation and the potential for a brighter future in the Horn of Africa region.

In this history, there is also a newfound harmony between Ethiopia and Somalia. This has not only paved the way for improved diplomatic relations, but it has also brought about several positive developments in various aspects of their cooperation.  A notable area where the two nations have been collaborating is in the field of security.  Ethiopia, understanding the importance of stability in Somalia, has committed to contributing peacekeeping forces to support the Somali government in its efforts to combat extremism and maintain peace. Moreover, the economic ties between Ethiopia and Somalia have flourished in recent years. Ethiopian Airlines, being one of Africa's leading carriers, has expanded its flight routes to include daily flights from Mogadishu, as well as other key cities in Somalia. This improved connectivity has not only facilitated the movement of people, but it has also enhanced trade and business opportunities between the two nations. As the relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia continues to strengthen, both nations must realize the immense benefits of mutual cooperation and understanding.  It is important to continue prioritizing peaceful resolutions and diplomatic engagements to foster understanding, cooperation, and stability in the Horn of Africa (HoA) region.

The way forward

Ethiopia's interest in acquiring access to a seaport if that is exactly what it intends should indeed be approached with mutual understanding and consideration for the interests of both countries. Let us keep in mind that there are many landlocked countries in this world, and none has ever resorted to violence.  While it is a reasonable aspiration for Ethiopia to seek a reliable and efficient sea route for its landlocked regions, it is crucial to ensure that such a pursuit does not compromise the sovereignty or stability of Somalia. Any discussions or negotiations regarding Ethiopia's potential access to the sea should be conducted through diplomatic channels, ensuring that Somalia's interests are adequately considered and protected.  By engaging in dialogue and negotiations with Somalia, Ethiopia can explore mutually beneficial agreements that address its need for sea access while respecting the sovereignty and interests of Somalia. This approach promotes a regional framework that encourages cooperation, economic development, and mutual defense on security.

Dragging the HoA into a deeper crisis should be avoided at all costs. The region already faces numerous challenges, including political instability, conflicts, and the threat of extremist groups. Logic should prevail.

Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Email: [email protected]


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