Somalia Threatens to Oust Ethiopian Forces Over Contested North Western of Somalia Port Agreement, Official Warns

Somalia will eject Ethiopian troops stationed for security purposes by year’s end if Addis Ababa doesn’t scrap a contentious port agreement with North Western of Somalia, declared a prominent Somali official.

Security aficionados and foreign diplomats warn that such a move jeopardizes Somalia’s stability, as local forces might flop at filling the ensuing power void, opening doors for al Shabaab, part of the al Qaeda network, to swoop in.

Around 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers camp in Somalia under the African Union’s peacekeeping banner (ATMIS), battling al Shabaab. Additionally, 5,000-7,000 more troops are stationed through a bilateral pact, scattered across several regions.

Ties between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa soured earlier this year after Ethiopia, devoid of a coastline, opted to lease 12 miles of shoreline from North Western of Somalia—a region that, since 1991, has operated independently but lacks international legitimacy.

Ethiopia dangled recognition before North Western of Somalia for leasing rights to set up a naval base and commercial port, a gesture Mogadishu labels unlawful.

“They must retract the agreement by June’s end or when the mission’s new mandate is set, or all Ethiopian troops, both ATMIS and bilateral, must leave,” Somalia’s national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali informed Reuters by phone.

“You can’t be both an ally and an attacker,” he added.

Requests for comments from Ethiopian government officials and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) went unanswered.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, plans to withdraw and hand security reins to Somalia by the close of 2024.

Despite the overarching plan, Somalia has repeatedly sought to decelerate troop withdrawal, citing battlefield hindrances. Forces from Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia are part of ATMIS.

By June’s end, a new, streamlined peacekeeping mission should be announced. Somalia, however, wants Ethiopia omitted from this list, according to African Union and African diplomats in the loop.

“With the current political scene, ENDF’s inclusion in an AU-led mission isn’t feasible,” stated Ali Omar, Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs, speaking to Reuters.

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