African Union Calls for Restraint Amid Rising Ethiopia-Somalia Tensions Over Maritime Deal

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council convened on Wednesday in response to growing tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, sparked by a contentious maritime agreement. Ethiopia, a landlocked country, unexpectedly entered into a maritime accord with Somaliland, a self-declared independent region of Somalia, on January 1. This move has been staunchly opposed by Mogadishu, citing violations of international law.

During the meeting in Addis Ababa, representatives from both Ethiopia and Somalia presented their cases, prompting the Council to emphasize the need for “meaningful dialogue” between the neighboring nations. The Council expressed serious concern about the escalating tensions and their potential to destabilize the Horn of Africa region.

The Council’s statement urged both Ethiopia and Somalia to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue to peacefully resolve the issue. The agreement in question involves Somaliland leasing 20 kilometers of its coastline to Ethiopia for 50 years, with Ethiopia expressing intentions to establish a naval base and a commercial port there.

Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but lacks international recognition, has been seeking formal statehood for over three decades. Somalia has vowed to defend its territorial integrity against this deal and has sought the intervention of the United Nations and the African Union.

The AU’s security council reiterated its commitment to the territorial integrity of all its member states. The situation has drawn attention from international stakeholders, including the United States, the European Union, China, and the Arab League, all advocating for the respect of Somalia’s sovereignty.

Igad, the East African trade bloc, announced plans for a meeting on January 18 in Uganda to address the Ethiopia-Somalia dispute. The situation is further complicated by Ethiopia’s landlocked status, having lost access to the coast after Eritrea’s independence in 1993 and primarily relying on Djibouti for maritime trade since its war with Eritrea in 1998.