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Why has the Somalia-Ethiopia row deepened?

Since the announcement of a deal between Ethiopia and Soamlia’s breakaway region of Somaliland three months ago, tensions have been breewing between the two east African neighbours and security partners.

Somalia on April 4 ordered Ethiopia’s ambassador to leave the country within 72 hours, and the closing of Ethiopia’s consulates in the region of Somaliland and the semiautonomous region of Puntland.

Diplomats and personnel stationed at the consulates must vacate Somalia within a week, according to a Cabinet resolution. Somalia’s Foreign Ministry, in addition to expelling the Ethiopian ambassador, recalled its own ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations.

The Cabinet resolution cited Ethiopia’s interference in Somalia’s “internal affairs” as the reason for the decisions.

Ethiopian officials from the embassy in the capital Mogadishu confirmed that the communication had been received.

Ethiopia signed in January, a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland, which Somalia denounced as infringing upon its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The memorandum was to allow Ethiopia’s access to the sea through Somaliland and in return Ethiopia would recognize Somaliland as an independent country.

Ethiopia is the world’s most populous state without access to sea.

On April 3rd, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs minister held trade talks with a delegation from the Puntland region without prior coordination with the federal government of Somalia.

According to local media outlet Garowe Online, Puntland’s Information Minister, Mohamud Aydid Dirirallegedly said that the Federal Government of Somalia had “no jurisdiction in Puntland to close Ethiopia’s Consulate in Garowe”.

This comes days after the semi-autonomous state said it has withdrawn from the country’s federal system and will govern itself independently until constitutional amendments passed by the central government in Somalia are approved in a nationwide referendum.

Somalia battles a deadly Islamist insurgency. In its fights against terror group Al-Shabab, Somalia works with neighbouring countries including Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa has deployed military personnel in Somalia through the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

Some 16,000 troops from 5 countries are still in Somalia down from 18 586 in 2022. There will be graduated another drawdown by June 2024, leading towards a final exit in December 2024.

Somalia and Ethiopia enjoyed peaceful relations until January this year when the memorandum with Somaliland sparked diplomatic tensions between the east African neighbors.

Additional sources • ATMIS

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