Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Courtesy photo)
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Courtesy photo)

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Saturday signed a law nullifying the memorandum of understanding signed between the Government of Ethiopia & Somaliland. The symbolic move comes as Ethiopia and a breakaway Somali region announced a deal on Jan. 1.

As part of the deal, Somaliland plans to lease a 20-km stretch of land along its coastline to Ethiopia to establish a naval base, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at the signing.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said the agreement included a statement that Ethiopia would soon recognize the territory as an independent country.

That is where the bone of contention lies. Somaliland has always contested the legally binding character of the state of union which was to form a unified country after Somalia and Somaliland respectively gained independence from Italy and Britain.

In reaction to the deal, Somalia recalled its ambassador from Ethiopia.

The AU chairperson urged Ethiopia and Somalia to engage without delay in a negotiation process to settle their differences.

Ethiopia lost its access to the sea when Eritrea seceded in 1993. Ethiopia has been using the port in neighboring Djibouti for most of its imports and exports.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi recently pledged his support for Somalia, following a deep disagreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland over maritime access.

Ethiopia signed an agreement to use one of Somaliland’s seaports, prompting criticism and annoyance from Somalia.

Somalia, which considers Somaliland part of its territory, condemned the agreement as an act of “aggression” and a violation of its sovereignty.

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