Saturday January 27, 2024
From left: Adem Farah, first vice president, Abiy Ahmed, President, and Temesgen Tiruneh, newly appointed second vice president of the Prosperity Party (PP). Photo SUPPLIED/ Prosperity Party (PP)
Mogadishu (HOL) - Following a four-day assembly, Ethiopia's ruling Prosperity Party (PP) has vowed to advance its contentious Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Somaliland into a "practical agreement." This commitment, made by the party's Executive and Central Committee members, has sparked significant regional tension, particularly with Somalia.The MoU, signed on January 1, proposes granting Ethiopia access to a 20 km stretch of Somaliland's coastline near the Berbera port for 50 years. Somaliland would receive stakes in Ethiopian state companies and potential international recognition in exchange. This move has been met with vehement opposition from the Somali government, which views the agreement as a direct challenge to its sovereignty.
The deal's implications extend beyond Ethiopia and Somalia, raising concerns about the stability of the Horn of Africa. Regional and international entities, including the Arab League, African Union, European Union, and the United States, have all reiterated support for Somalia's territorial integrity. The situation is further complicated by the strategic interests of Middle Eastern countries in the region, namely the UAE and Egypt.
The UAE has emerged as a principal patron to Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. During the Tigray War, experts believed Ethiopia's military was bolstered by aerial drones purchased from the UAE.
Meanwhile, Egypt, which supports Somalia in the dispute, has sharply criticized Ethiopia's MoU as reckless adventurism. Egypt's ties with Ethiopia have deteriorated due to the construction and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, an issue that has yet to be resolved.
Within Ethiopia, the confrontational MoU forms part of the PP's broader strategy discussed in the meeting, addressing economic development challenges and national security concerns. During the summit, the party stressed the need for peaceful negotiations with armed groups in Ethiopia while also emphasizing strengthening law enforcement measures.
Ahead of the final day of the party meeting, it was revealed by PP officials that Ethiopia's spy chief, Temesgen Tiruneh, was replacing longtime deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen. State-run media reported that Temesgen was elected to succeed Demeke as a vice president of the ruling Prosperity Party. A vice president of the ruling political party typically serves as federal deputy prime minister.
The president of Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland also confirmed his government will continue with the agreement. During an interview with Somaliland's state broadcaster this week, President Muse Bihi Abdi said Ethiopia is seeking to lease 20 kilometre- (12.4 mile-) stretch of coastline for a naval base — and not for commercial activities as earlier reports had indicated.