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Matthew Bryden: 'Nothing illegal about the MOU' between Ethiopia and Somaliland


Sunday April 21, 2024


Screengrab from an interview with German broadcaster DW on February 1, 2024, political analyst Matthew Bryden stated that there is "little Somalia can do against the Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement." (CREDIT: DW)

MOGADISHU (HOL) — Political analyst Matt Bryden has defended Ethiopia's recent recognition of Somaliland, citing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on January 1, 2024, as compliant with international legal standards. The agreement, which provides Ethiopia strategic access to the Red Sea through Berbera Port and a military base, has heightened tensions with Somalia, which claims Somaliland as part of its territory.

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Bryden's defence of the MoU is not without its own controversies. His contentious relations with the Somali government, including being declared persona non grata in 2018 and being sentenced in absentia to five years in 2021 for allegedly leaking state secrets, have cast a shadow over his credibility for some. His organization, Sahan Research, has refuted these charges as politically motivated by Somalia's previous administration. His previous roles, including his tenure as a UN monitor and advisor on Somali affairs, have also been marred by controversies.

In his interview with Ethiopia State Television, Matthew Bryden, an expert in Horn of Africa politics, stated that the MoU aligns with precedents set by prior state recognitions, asserting that "Somaliland fulfills the traditional criteria for statehood recognition: a permanent population, a defined territory, and an effective government capable of engaging in foreign diplomacy and governing its populace, despite some internal challenges." 

The agreement promises Ethiopian infrastructural development that will connect the military base to the port and potential collaborations in the education and health sectors. Along with sovereign recognition, Somaliland would secure significant economic benefits and infrastructural investments, potentially gaining shares in major Ethiopian corporations such as Ethiopia Airlines or EthioTelecom.

The deal has been met with fierce opposition from Somalia, which regards it as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This sentiment is echoed by international entities such as the Arab League, the European Union, and the United States, all of which have called for dialogue and urged peace full resolution.

Earlier this month, Somalia announced the expulsion of Ethiopia's ambassador and the closure of Ethiopia's consulates in Hargeisa, Somaliland's largest city and capital, and Garowe, the capital of Puntland's semi-autonomous region.

Bryden, however, claims that Ethiopia's action is aligned with international norms. "States like South Sudan and Eritrea were recognized under similar conditions," he stated, emphasizing that despite Somalia's instability, Somaliland has maintained relative stability and governance for three decades, which he believes forms a solid basis for its recognition. The recognition of Somaliland could potentially shift the regional balance of power, with land-locked Ethiopia gaining a strategic foothold in the region and Somalia losing a significant portion of its recognized territory.

Critics have also raised issues about the timing and transparency of the deal, viewing it as an encroachment on Somalia's sovereignty.

The G7 summit this week also addressed the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU, expressing concern over the potential for increased regional tension. The G7 nations have urged both Ethiopia and Somalia to "keep all channels of dialogue open" and to work with regional partners and international bodies such as the African Union to prevent further escalation. The G7 also addressed broader concerns within Ethiopia, highlighting worries about "persistent and violent tensions in many areas of the country." 

Somaliland has vowed to proceed with Ethiopia's agreement despite strong opposition and reports that the Memorandum of Understanding has stalled.



 





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