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A Pact Cast Adrift: Navigating the Legal Maelstrom of the Ethiopia-Somaliland Accord

By Dayib Sheikh Ahmed (faracadde)

The ink upon the Ethiopia-Somaliland Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is barely dry, yet it has already unleashed a legal tempest across the Horn of Africa. This accord, envisioned by Ethiopia as a shimmering mirage of maritime access and economic bounty, sits precariously perched upon a reef of contested claims and simmering tensions. It threatens to shatter regional stability and reignite dormant conflicts, casting a long shadow of uncertainty over Somalia’s future.

President Bihi with Prime Minister Abiy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

At the heart of the storm lies the incendiary issue of territorial integrity. Somalia, still bearing the scars of the brutal 1977-1978 Ogaden War with Ethiopia, vehemently contests the pact, calling it a brazen affront to its sovereignty. Somaliland, declared independent in 1991 but unrecognized by the international community, claims its territory as an integral part of Somalia’s fractured whole. This sets the stage for a legal clash of titans, a modern-day David and Goliath in the halls of regional and international courts. Somalia, armed with the sacrosanct principle of uti possidetis juris – demanding respect for inherited borders – stands poised to challenge the MoU’s very foundation. Should the agreement be deemed to encroach upon these borders, a tidal wave of legal challenges will engulf the pact, potentially dragging it down to the murky depths of legal oblivion.

But the perils of the MoU extend far beyond territorial integrity. It dangles the tantalizing carrot of international recognition for Somaliland, a prize long chased but perpetually out of reach. This flirtation, however, is fraught with its own legal dangers. Recognizing Somaliland, even implicitly, could be construed as an act of dismemberment, a violation of the fundamental principle of jus a quo, safeguarding existing state borders. This legal labyrinth, woven from conflicting claims and historical grievances, could embroil the international community in a protracted dispute, destabilizing the region’s fragile diplomatic tapestry and potentially reigniting old rivalries.

The ripples of the MoU extend beyond legal frameworks and diplomatic pronouncements. It unleashes a torrent of regional power struggles, each vying for primacy in the Red Sea’s strategic embrace. Ethiopia, thirsting for maritime access, finds itself locked in a silent duel with Djibouti, its current gateway to the sea. This potent mix of ambition and rivalry threatens to draw in other players – Eritrea, with its own historical claims, and Egypt, the ever-present guardian of the Nile’s watery passage. As these forces collide, the region’s delicate balance of power teeters on the brink, and the legal frameworks governing maritime boundaries and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea face unprecedented strain. This could escalate tensions and jeopardize the hard-won stability of the region.

Within Somaliland itself, the MoU sows the seeds of internal discord. The specter of entanglement in Ethiopia’s internal conflicts raises the hackles of many, jeopardizing the hard-earned autonomy they hold dear. The air crackles with murmurs of dissent, fueled by concerns about the agreement’s legality and its potential impact on Somaliland’s fragile Autonomy. President Bihi Abdi, accused of bypassing ministerial consultation, finds himself under fire, the flames of internal opposition fanned by a media spotlight relentless in its scrutiny. Should these internal legal battles erupt, the tremors could potentially destabilize the region and cast a long shadow upon the agreement’s already uncertain future.

Adding to the maelstrom of uncertainty, the Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has dealt a heavy blow to the MoU, formally nullifying the agreement. This seismic act throws the future of the pact into even deeper disarray, plunging it into a vortex of legal and political ambiguity. Looming large above it all is the potential for treason accusation. against President Bihi Abdi. In some interpretations, the MoU could be seen as an alienation of a significant portion of Somali territory to a foreign power, a legal definition of treason in many countries. Somaliland’s Defense Minister’s recent resignation further fuels speculation about internal dissent and potential legal ramifications. Whether such an interpretation will gain traction, ultimately leading to charges and legal proceedings against Abdi, remains to be seen. However, the mere possibility underscores the immense legal and political risks associated with the Ethiopia-Somaliland pact. In the face of legal challenges, regional pressures, and internal dissent, a chilling sentiment echoes across Somalia: a call to defend the nation’s territorial integrity with every fiber of its being. “Somalia shall not be dismembered again,” resonates like a battle cry, reminding citizens of the scars left by the brutal Ogaden War and the enduring fight for unity.

The words of philosopher George Santayana ring true: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Ethiopia, once embroiled in a bloody conflict with Somalia, must heed this warning. The MoU, fraught with legal ambiguities and territorial tensions, risks rekindling past animosities and plunging the region into another vortex of violence. Let this pact not be the bridge to renewed conflict, but rather a catalyst for genuine dialogue and respect for international law. The Horn of Africa deserves a future of peace and prosperity, but this can only be built on solid foundation of historical acknowledgement and genuine reconciliation. Somalia’s call for unity is not a threat, but a plea for understanding. Ethiopia, and the international community, must listen – for the sake of the region’s fragile stability and the hard-won peace that generations have strived for.

In conclusion, the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU is a legal hurricane churning amidst a sea of historical grievances and conflicting claims. It is a vessel caught in a legal squall, its sails torn by territorial disputes, its hull battered by regional rivalries, and its compass spinning wildly in the face of internal discord. Whether it will navigate the treacherous waters of legal challenges, regional power struggles, and domestic opposition or succumb to the maelstrom of uncertainty remains to be seen. One thing, however, is certain: the legal currents swirling around it are turbulent and unforgiving. The future of the Horn of Africa it is in limbo.  

Dayib Sheikh Ahmed (faracadde)
Email, [email protected]

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Related articles:

1. The escalating Ethiopia-Somalia rift: A precarious path to conflict By Hassan Tahir  

2Has Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed failed history at the school? failure in history may lead him to failure in leadership By Prof Abdisalam M Issa-Salwe and Abdullahi Salah Osman

3.Abiy Ahmed’s MoU with Muse Bihi threatens Horn of Africa stability by Abdirahman Baadiyow

4-Calculated ambiguity: A sovereign port, access to the sea or a naval base? By Prof Ezekiel Gebissa

5-The historical search for a sea outlet and leadership legacy By Faisal A Roble

6.Ethiopia and Somaliland deal: A declaration of war against Somalia By Hassan Zaylai


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