Somalia Demands Withdrawal of Ethiopian Forces Unless North Western of Somalia Port Agreement Is Canceled, Official Declares

In the volatile landscapes of Somalia, over 3,000 Ethiopian troops are deployed as part of the expansive African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). They confront al Shabaab insurgents who dominate extensive areas of the region. Additionally, roughly 5,000 to 7,000 Ethiopian soldiers are distributed across various locales under a distinct bilateral accord.

Tension between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa sharply escalated following Ethiopia’s decision to lease a 20 km stretch of shoreline from North Western of Somalia. North Western of Somalia, proclaiming itself independent since 1991 despite lacking global endorsement, proposed recognition from Ethiopia in return for setting up a maritime base and economic port. Mogadishu condemned the plan as unlawful.

“Should the agreement persist beyond June’s end or the next mission mandate, we’ll need to withdraw all Ethiopian forces, both from ATMIS and bilaterally,” asserted Somalia’s national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali during a telephonic discussion with Reuters.

“Ethiopia playing both comrade and combatant is untenable,” he added.

Attempts to contact Ethiopian officials and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces for their comments were met with silence.

Charged by the U.N. Security Council, the ATMIS mission is poised to relinquish all security duties to Somalian authorities by the close of 2024.

The Somali administration, however, citing frequent military setbacks, has repeatedly appealed for a deceleration in the withdrawal of troops comprised of units from Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

A leaner peacekeeping initiative, set to be unveiled by June’s end, will likely exclude Ethiopia as a contributor. This decision follows the stance of the Somali government based on consultations with AU and various African dignitaries.

“Given the present political fracas, including ENDF in the AU initiative is infeasible,” remarked Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs, Ali Omar, in a conversation with Reuters.

(Reportage by Giulia Paravicini; Edits by Hereward Holland and William Maclean)

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