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In a recent speech, President Hassan Sh Mohamoud of the Federal Republic of Somalia asserted that his country is ready to defend its sovereignty using every available means. This declaration directly corresponds to the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Somaliland and the Federal Government of Ethiopia. The agreement encompasses the establishment of an Ethiopian naval base in the Red Sea, as well as the recognition of Somaliland as Africa’s 55th state and the initiation of significant economic cooperation between the two nations.

“Do not push us. Do not push us into knocking on doors we have not knocked on before. We will defend our state, cooperate with anyone to defend it.”

Hassan Sh Mohamoud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.

The Somali government has issued multiple statements objecting the MoU and accusing Ethiopia on infringing on its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition to the Somali President’s hawkish and hinting of use of force to stop the deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland, other government officials including the spokesman for Somalia’s Ministry of Defense have threatened to wage war on Somaliland and Ethiopia.

The potential Ethiopian naval base in Somaliland has sparked outrage from the Somali President. Framing it as an “existential threat” and rushing laws to void the memorandum of understanding between the two neighboring countries requires a closer look. Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has functioned as an independent entity since 1991, raising questions about the “true nature” of the perceived threat by the Somali government and its allies, including Egypt and Djibouti. The Somali government’s anxieties seem focused less on immediate territorial violation and more on the potential Ethiopian recognition of Somaliland. This recognition could effectively erase Somalia’s territorial claim, granting Somaliland the coveted 55th seat in the African Union, solidifying its independence and providing Ethiopia access to the strategic Red Sea.

Although the President Hassan Sh Mohamoud has stopped short of specifying any action that he intends to take against Somaliland and Ethiopia, he evoked memories of the 1977 war between Ethiopia and Somalia and the provisional border between the two countries.

A concerning element of Somalia’s latest tantrum is subtly stoking a potent mix of nationalism and religious extremism by framing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the potential Ethiopian naval base in Somaliland as issues that warrant opposition from all Somalis by any means necessary. This narrative persists, even as Somalia’s own security is currently guaranteed by the presence of tens of thousands of foreign troops from the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

ATMIS (African Transition Mission in Somalia) has thousands of troops deployed in its mission to transition the security responsibilities of Somalia to its own forces by the end of 2024. ATMIS troops are drawn from neighboring countries including Ethiopia along with Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Djibouti. Ethiopia’s role in stabilizing Somalia is seen as crucial for the stability and security of the region, as well as for its own national interests, and has had thousands of troops in Somalia that are mainly deployed in Sector Three, which covers Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions of Somalia and have been critical to Somalia’s fight against Al-Shabaab terror group.

Earlier today, the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia traveled to Asmara for a meeting with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The purpose of this visit remains uncertain, raising questions about whether the Somali President is pursuing an alliance with the Eritrean leader to counter the Ethiopian-Somaliland Memorandum of Understanding and potential bilateral and economic cooperation.

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