When Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1993, Ethiopia became landlocked and therefore dependent on its neighbors especially Djibouti for access to international markets. This dependency has hampered Ethiopia’s aspiration to emerge as the uncontested regional power in the Horn of Africa. Recently, however, the ground has been shifting. As we point out in a recent article, Ethiopia has attempted to take advantage of the recent involvement of various Arab Gulf States in the Horn of Africa’s coastal zone to reduce its dependency on Djibouti’s port.
The Djibouti port currently accounts for 95% of Ethiopia’s imports and exports. It has done so by actively trying to interest partners in the refurbishment and development of other ports in the region: Berbera in the Somaliland region of Somalia, and Mombasa in Kenya.
The development and expansion of the port at Berbera supports two primary pillars of Ethiopia’s regional policy. The first is maintaining Eritrea’s isolation. The aim would be to weaken it to the point that it implodes and is formally reunited to Ethiopia. Or it becomes a pliant, client state.
But it is Berbera, in particular, that will prove the most radical in terms of challenging regional power dynamics as well as international law. Somaliland can’t enter into a deal with Ethiopia without involving the federal Government of Somalia. Since Somalia refused to recognize Somaliland as an independent country.
Ethiopia’s ambitions for Berbera have been hampered by the Republic of Somaliland – a de-facto independent state since 1991 – still isn’t recognized internationally. This makes engagement a political and legal headache.
This has resulted to a proxy war between Somaliland and Somalia. Somaliland with support from Ethiopia and Djibouti. Djibouti and Ethiopia have been funding Somaliland politician to push the secession agenda.
Though the President Abdullahi Farmajo knows the deal but he has no option but letting Somaliland secede and lobby Ethiopia and Djibouti to continue supporting him to retain power for the second time.
By Ahmed Mohammed
Senior Reporter on Terrorism in Africa