Ethiopia's strategic move: Gaining access to the Red Sea through Somaliland

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2024-02-11 | 12:27
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Ethiopia's strategic move: Gaining access to the Red Sea through Somaliland
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3min
Ethiopia's strategic move: Gaining access to the Red Sea through Somaliland

Report by Nicole Hajal, English adaptation by Yasmine Jaroudi
 
Waterways have been both the cause of wars and the catalysts for economic development.

When seas suddenly narrow, they become known as straits, or as some call them, "chokepoints."

A new hotspot in the Horn of Africa, overlooking critical gateways: the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea, is on the brink of explosion as Ethiopia signs an agreement with the internationally unrecognized "Republic of Somaliland."

Flocked with no direct access to the sea, Ethiopia sees a renewed aspiration to reach the Red Sea. Finding a pathway through Somaliland has been the key to its dream, as the agreement grants Ethiopia a seaport through a port in Somaliland.

Why is Ethiopia pursuing this old-new dream that could potentially ignite tensions in the Horn of Africa?

Ethiopia views the Horn of Africa as a region of regional influence, aiming to assert its dominance and expand its influence to become one of the African continent's poles. It believes securing a sovereign maritime outlet to the Red Sea is one of the most critical means to achieve this goal.

Since Ethiopia became landlocked in 1993 after Eritrea's secession, it has sought access to the sea, paving the way for the construction of a military base and the development of the Berbera Port on the Red Sea, a move that serves Addis Ababa's interests.

Ethiopia's maritime outlet puts it under international scrutiny, especially after its relations with the West deteriorated due to the recent Ethiopian war in the Tigray region in the north. The diversification of Ethiopia's strategic options gains international attention, rather than relying solely on the Djibouti port, the only port where it has power.

The agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland grants Ethiopia a 20-kilometer area of the Berbera Port, overlooking the Gulf of Aden and the southern entrance to the Red Sea, for 50 years. In return, Somaliland receives recognition and a share in Ethiopian Airlines.

The deal has sparked angry reactions from Somalia, neighboring countries, European countries, the United States, and particularly Cairo, which sees a looming confrontation with Ethiopia.

Why does Cairo fear Addis Ababa's access to the Red Sea?

Egypt, embroiled in a longstanding dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, sees Ethiopia's move as provocative and a development that could turn it into a new naval power in the Red Sea. This gives Ethiopia additional leverage in the negotiations over the Renaissance Dam.

Moreover, Egypt fears the presence of a new foreign military base in the Red Sea that may compromise its national security, mainly concerning the Suez Canal, the only northern gateway to the Red Sea, amid rising tensions between the two countries.
 

News Bulletin Reports

World News

Ethiopia Strategic

Access

Red Sea

Somaliland

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