In a significant geopolitical move, Ethiopia and the a self-declared republic of Somaliland inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on January 1, 2024, solidifying an agreement that grants Ethiopia a 50-year lease on 20 kilometers of Somaliland’s coast. The leased area, situated around the strategic port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden, will be utilized by Ethiopia to establish both a naval base and a commercial port.
Notably, the Somaliland government announced that Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland as an independent state is integral to the port deal.
This bilateral agreement, however, has triggered heightened tensions in the Horn of Africa. Somalia has strongly condemned the accord, deeming it illegitimate, and has actively sought international backing.
Somaliland, once a British colony from 1884 to 1960, briefly gained independence in 1960 before uniting with Italian Somaliland to form Somalia. Somaliland subsequently declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but remains unrecognized by any UN member state.
The repercussions of this port deal have strained relations between Ethiopia and Somalia, with the latter adamantly viewing Somaliland as an integral part of its territory.