Unpacking Regional Security Challenges: Will Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU Move Forward?

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The recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ethiopia and Somaliland has the potential to address regional security challenges, but it also presents its own set of hurdles. The MoU has been the subject of significant debate and tension in the region, with many stakeholders weighing in on its legal soundness, the challenges it poses, and the potential outcomes for the involved parties.

Matt Bryden, a strategic advisor at SAHAN and an expert in Horn of Africa politics, offers an in-depth analysis of the implications of the agreement and the broader dynamics at play in the region. In an interview with The Reporter’s Abraham Tekle, Bryden provides valuable insights into the complexities of the situation.

Bryden argues that Somaliland’s stability and effective governance over the past three decades justify its bid for international recognition as a separate state. He points out that Somaliland has a stable population, defined borders, and a functioning government capable of foreign diplomacy and internal governance. These are similar to what led to the statehood for South Sudan and Eritrea. Bryden believes that recognition should be acknowledged to prevent further destabilization.

Bryden highlights the tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia following the MoU signing, attributing Somalia’s reaction to its lack of full sovereignty and control over its territory. He emphasizes that the dispute is more about Somalia’s internal issues and reluctance to engage with Somaliland than about Ethiopia’s recognition. Bryden also discusses the role of Al-Shabaab in the region and the potential consequences of withdrawing international support in Somalia.

Regarding potential solutions, Bryden suggests that Somalia needs to address its internal problems and reconcile with its neighbors, including Somaliland. He emphasizes the importance of good neighborly relations and avoiding conflicts for stability in the Horn of Africa. Bryden believes that Somaliland has already achieved statehood and that recognition should be acknowledged to prevent further destabilization.

The Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed and President of the Republic of Somaliland Muse Bihi Abdi exchange a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) after signing where Ethiopia officially recognizes the Republic of Somaliland while Somaliland grants naval and commercial sea access on lease to Ethiopia for 50 years.

In conclusion, Bryden urges Ethiopia to handle the situation carefully, involving other international partners and ensuring a balanced approach to maintain stability in the region. He notes that the failure to resolve the situation could lead to destabilization in Somaliland, which would not be beneficial for any party involved. Despite rumors of Ethiopia pulling out of the deal, Bryden suggests that such a move could have negative consequences for both Ethiopia and Somaliland.

“What would Ethiopia get by doing that if Mogadishu would come down? But would Mogadishu become a more reliable, more stable, and more effective partner? No, not in a single future. And if Somaliland is destabilized in the process, then Ethiopia will lose on both fronts,” he said.

The Horn of Africa region has been plagued by conflicts and instability for decades. The recent MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland has the potential to either exacerbate or mitigate the situation, depending on how it is handled.