On 16th of June 2018, Ethiopian prime minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed visited Mogadishu, Somalia and promised to start new page of cooperation and “to strengthen the brotherly bilateral relations” between the two nations. In particular, he emphasized that his government will respect Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Three months later, on September 2018, Dr. Abiy appointed Shamsudin Ahmed Roble as the new Ethiopian Consul General in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland. Mr. Shamsudin is career diplomat of Somali origin who served as Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya and Djibouti respectively. His appointment to Somaliland amounts to upgrading the diplomatic relations between Somaliland and Ethiopia to the level of independent sovereign state.
As that was not enough, Abiy invited the president of Somaliland to his office and held cabinet level meeting with him, discussing issues ranging from security, trade, and economic cooperation. This sent shockwaves in Mogadishu and the government in Somalia is currently weighing on how to respond to this flagrant provocation from the Ethiopian side.
In another amateurish move, the Ethiopian government sent yesterday a delegation led by president Mustafa Omer of Somali region to lay the foundation stone for the construction of a 250km dual carriage-way between the Somaliland Port City of Berbera and the Ethiopian border of town Togwajale. The project duped “the Berbera corridor” is to be funded by the UAE and the Ethiopian government jointly.
The Somali Regional State of Ethiopia and Somaliland share long porous border and the two regions depend on each heavily in terms of trade, not to mention ethnicity, culture and family ties. This corridor will definitely boost the movement of goods and people between the two regions. But Somaliland is unrecognized foreign territory; therefore, conducting business with this entity, even if it’s diplomatically illegal, is the sole responsibility of the federal government of Ethiopia and not president Mustafa Omer and his administration. Dr. Abiy is either violating basic diplomatic playbook or he wants to pit Somalis against each other by using Somali regional state as springboard to dismember Somalia.
Somaliland is not yet recognized by any state. The new Ethiopian government policy to conduct business with Somaliland as a sovereign state can open a Bandora box that other states might follow. Reliable sources told us the kingdom of Morocco, which is facing revolt in Western Sahara, has expressed concern about the Ethiopian government’s actions in Somaliland.