Ethiopia fires warning shots at Egypt over plans to build military base in Somaliland, again
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia revived her escalating rivalry with Egypt yet again over Cairo's plans to set up a military base at Somaliland, arguing that "problems" will arise in future which could be "detrimental" in the Horn of Africa and other neighboring regions, adding that it's "against" the spirit of regional integration.
Egypt is said to have expressed a desire to establish a military base in Somaliland to "protect" her interest, and a delegation from Cairo held a meeting with Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi last month. However, Somaliland is yet to confirm or deny the possibility of allowing Egypt to set a military base along the Gulf of Aden.
The Egyptian delegation had termed the trip to Hargeisa as a "normal" bilateral cooperation tour with Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs adding that "Hargeisa is ready to boost trade ties with world economies". The delegation visited almost two months after the Somaliland team visited Cairo for bilateral talks.
However, Ethiopia seems still rattled with Egypt's interest in Somaliland, in a move that could shape the northern breakaway region's quest for international recognition. Both Egypt and Ethiopia are among the most respected world economies who call shots at the International level.
In a bi-monthly press briefing on Friday, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dina Mufti said that Egypt can "do whatever they want" in Somaliland but should be "prepared" for consequences. He did not specify some of the repercussions Egypt could be facing should it establish a military base in Somaliland.
“Problems arise when they try to pose a threat to our national security and that is a red line that cannot be crossed," he said. "We shall protect our territorial integrity and nobody can think of overstepping into some issues, we are going to protect Ethiopia from any external aggression".
The spokesman also said that Ethiopia will continue to work closely with Somaliland, arguing that the relationship between Hargeisa and Addis Ababa has always been "smooth" and that the cooperation will not be affected by the current high octane politics in the Horn of Africa.
"We shall work closely with all interested parties and for this case, we shall work closely with Somaliland. Our relationship remains steady and nobody will antagonize us, we shall keenly work with the neighbors. Our regional interests are steady and we assure you that nothing will change," he added.
There were reports that Ethiopia was contemplating to dispatch a full representative to Somaliland to foster the relationship. However, the ambassador did not confirm or deny the reports when asked by reporters from Addis Ababa, who wants to know Ethiopia's next course of action.
Egypt and Ethiopia have been at loggerheads over the filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam along the Blue Nile for some time now. While Cairo wants a slow and steady process to avoid affecting levels of River Nile, Ethiopia has insisted on the plan to fill the dam in record time to allow the generation of hydro-electric power.
The US has struggled to unite the two factions despite several meetings with delegations from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in Washington DC. Recently, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa reached a temporary agreement with the two countries, but Cairo is said to be still "concerned" with Addis Ababa's conduct.
Somaliland is increasingly attracting interests from outsiders in a significant move that could help her in pushing for international recognition. Ethiopia is one of the key stakeholders in the ongoing talks between Somalia and Somaliland which are going on in Djibouti after being set by President Ismail Omar Guelleh and PM Abiy Ahmed.
The outcome of the talks is set to be concluded this month but Somaliland has insisted that Mogadishu must implement previous agreements. Somaliland claims to have seceded from Somalia in 1991 following decades of civil war which was engineered by the rogue regime of Siad Barre.
The spokesman also told the media that one Ethiopian national had died in Beirut last week following an explosion believed to have been triggered by Ammonium Nitrate. Over 150 people died from the explosion which is the worst in decades in the Middle East, officials said.