“Somaliland MoU being handled by PM”: Transport Minister

0
48

Mogadishu calls for withdrawal of Ethiopian troops

Alemu SIme (PhD), minister of Transport and Logistics, told Parliament that Ethiopia is pursuing the sea access deal with Somaliland amidst reports of the Somali government’s request for the full withdrawal of Ethiopian peacekeeping troops.

“The MoU with Somaliland is beyond our sector,” Alemu told MPs. “The negotiations and the signing were all carried out by Prime Minister Abiy. It is still being handled the same way. The issue of access to a port is not only about loading and unloading goods.”

He made the statement while presenting a nine-month report to the House of Peoples’ Representatives on June 4, 2024. Alemu refrained from detailing further progress on the MoU inked in January this year.

Alemu did, however, assert that Ethiopia’s efforts to utilize the ports of neighboring countries are based on notions of mutual benefit.

“We want to use all ports in neighboring countries for our benefit. We want to use Assab. We want to use Port Sudan for the northwestern regions of Ethiopia. We want to work with all of our neighbors. We believe our neighboring countries will also benefit.”

The MoU with Somaliland proposes Ethiopia’s access to a 20 kilometer stretch on the coast in exchange for statehood recognition and stakes in state-owned enterprises such as Ethiopian Airlines. Mogadishu has vehemently opposed the agreement since its signing.

This week, international media outlets reported Somalia is planning to evacuate Ethiopian peacekeeping missions within six months’ time.

The reports emerged after Hussein Sheikh- Ali, Somalia’s national security advisor, tweeted “Our position on ENDF’s role in the post-ATMIS mission is unequivocal. As long as Ethiopia persists in violating our sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence, we cannot and will not consider it an ally in advancing peace and security in the region,” on June 1, 2024.

According to reports, some 3,000 Ethiopian troops are fighting Al-Shabaab under the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), while more than 5,000 are deployed under bilateral agreement missions between the two Horn of Africa nations.

ATMIS, the reconfigured AMISOM, is already slated for phase-out by the end of 2024, with a gradual withdrawal of troops already taking place. Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi and Uganda contribute an estimated 22,000 troops to the mission, of which some 5,000 have withdrawn since last year.

However, Uganda’s Museveni and Kenya’s Ruto have lately expressed concerns that the end of ATMIS will provide fertile ground for an Al-Shabaab resurgence, posing security risks for the wider East Africa region. As a result, discussions are underway in a bid to design a new peacekeeping mission for post-ATMIS operations in Somalia.

Nonetheless, Somalia’s government has reportedly expressed that it is not willing to have Ethiopian troops take part in a post-ATMIS peacekeeping mission.

Referring to a phone interview with Somalia’s national security adviser, Reuters quoted on June 3, 2024, “If they do not repeal the (agreement) before the end of June, or when the new mandate of the mission is decided, all Ethiopian troops, ATMIS and bilateral, will have to go.”