In a calibrated diplomatic response to the evolving political dynamics in the Horn of Africa, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud embarked on a two-day working visit to Eritrea from January 8 to 10, 2024. This visit unfolds against a backdrop of regional complexities, notably the recently inked Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Ethiopia and Somaliland on January 1, 2024, prompting varied diplomatic responses.
Background: Somalia, Somaliland, and Ethiopia
The genesis of the Somaliland issue traces back to the early 1990s, marked by its declaration of independence following the collapse of the Somali state. While Somaliland maintains a degree of autonomy, its sovereignty lacks international recognition. The recent Ethiopia-Somaliland MOU introduces an additional layer of intricacy to the regional landscape, fostering diplomatic tensions.
Analysts’ Perspectives and Regional Ramifications
Analysts contend that Ethiopia’s endorsement of the MOU violates the charters of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN). In response, Somalia nullified the MOU, reinforced by the Somalian president signing a law. Numerous regional countries have reiterated their support for Somalia’s territorial integrity.
GERD and Regional Implications
The GERD, a significant hydropower project on the Blue Nile River initiated by Ethiopia, stands as a source of regional tensions. Egypt and Sudan express apprehensions about potential impacts on water resources. Ongoing diplomatic unrest adds complexity to the GERD issue, heightening concerns about Egypt leveraging the situation to bolster its opposition.
Moreover, the GERD matter carries implications for regional stability, potentially escalating geopolitical tensions. The intricate negotiations and power dynamics surrounding the dam project are interwoven with broader regional geopolitics.
Ethiopian Internal Challenges
Internally, Ethiopia grapples with a myriad of challenges, including the ongoing conflict in the Amhara region and the Oromia conflict. These conflicts, coupled with the impact of drought and ethnic tensions, amplify the overall complexity of the regional dynamics. The Amhara region conflict and the Oromia conflict lead to displacement, human rights concerns, and internal cohesion strains.
Eritrea’s Strategic Calculus
In this intricate scenario, Eritrea’s role assumes added significance. The recent diplomatic engagement between Eritrea and Somalia during President Mohamud’s visit from January 8-10, 2024, can be perceived as an opportunity for Eritrea to strategically position itself, especially in relation to Ethiopia. Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been strained since the cessation of hostilities between the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF in November 2022.
As the Government of Eritrea announces its intention to issue comprehensive statements in the near future, the international community eagerly anticipates a nuanced understanding of the specific diplomatic agenda discussed during the visit. These unfolding developments present a measured narrative of diplomatic maneuvers in the Horn of Africa, where cooperation and dialogue are explored as potential instruments to navigate regional realignment.
Amidst these geopolitical intricacies, the Eritrea-Somalia diplomatic engagement from January 8-10, 2024, stands as a testament to the strategic considerations at play, offering insight into the delicate balance of regional alliances and the pursuit of stability amidst evolving challenges.