Ethiopia, Somalia Agree to Strengthen Relationship
Mogadishu, June 17, 2018, (AltAfrika) – New Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed agreed Saturday to “strengthen their brotherly bilateral relations” and to collaborate with the African Union in seeking solutions to problems on the continent.
After bilateral talks Saturday in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the leaders said in a statement the two countries would enhance diplomatic and trade activities, including opening diplomatic and consular offices and removing of “all trade and economic barriers.”
The leaders paid “singular focus” to economic growth and bilateral investment to “secure a prosperous future for their people, the countries of the Horn of Africa and ultimately the African continent.”
Ahmed and Farmajo “condemned terrorism in all its forms” and emphasized the need to cooperate to “effectively counter terrorism and deal with cross-border security challenges.”
Ahmed is the second Ethiopian leader to visit Somalia. In June 2007, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited Mogadishu after his soldiers helped the Somali government topple the Islamic Courts Union that briefly ruled the capital.
Ahmed arrived in Mogadishu on Saturday amid tight security and was received at the airport by the Somali president.
After receiving guard of honor at the airport, Ahmed was driven to the presidential palace in Mogadishu, where the two leaders held talks.
Security was tightened with the deployment of Somali troops along major roads in Mogadishu. All major roads leading to the airport and the palace were closed to the public.
Ethiopia has more than 4,200 troops who are officially serving as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia. In addition, several thousand Ethiopian troops operate in various parts of Somalia outside the AMISOM mandate but under a bilateral agreement with Somalia.
Joint investment in four seaports on the Red Sea
Somalia and Ethiopia announced they were jointly investing in four seaports to attract foreign investment to their two countries, the latest move in a tussle for access to ports along one of the world’s most strategic waterways.
After Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo hosted Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed for a meeting at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the two leaders issued a joint statement of pledges to cooperate on everything from the development of infrastructure including roads linking the two countries to expanding visa services to promote cultural exchanges.
The statement did not elaborate on which ports the two countries would develop.
The Horn of Africa’s Red Sea coastline extending north of Somalia through Djibouti and Eritrea toward the critical Suez Canal is already dotted with ports owned or run by countries locked in a regional struggle: the United Arab Emirates and its ally Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey which backs Qatar on the other.
Landlocked Ethiopia, which has a population of 100 million, has been led since April by 41-year-old former intelligence officer Abiy, who has moved swiftly to assert his nation’s interests on the international stage.
“The leaders further agreed to invest in logistics and service provision specially to leading ports in the continent that can serve both the Indian ocean and the Red Sea,” the statement read.
The day before Abiy’s visit to Somalia, the United Arab Emirates pledged to give $3 billion to Ethiopia in aid and investments, in a major show of support for the new leadership in Ethiopia.
The strengthened partnership between Ethiopia and the oil-rich Gulf monarchy is significant in the context of Addis Ababa’s ties with Mogadishu.
Somalia and the UAE have been at odds for months over the broader dispute in the Gulf region.
That Middle Eastern feud is driving the desire to control the Horn of Africa and its waters, diplomats, businessmen, scholars and Somali officials have told us.
In May, Ethiopian state media reported that Ethiopia had taken an unspecified stake in the port of Djibouti, its main gateway for trade.