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Somalia To Expel Ethiopian Troops Over Somaliland Port Deal

SOMALIA has announced plans to expel thousands of Ethiopian troops stationed in the country by the end of the year unless Ethiopia cancels a contentious port deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland. This announcement was made by a senior Somali official on Monday.

Security experts and foreign diplomats warn that this move could further destabilise Somalia. Local forces may be unable to fill the resulting security vacuum, potentially giving al Shabaab fighters, an al Qaeda affiliate, an opportunity to exploit the situation.


Currently, there are at least 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission (ATMIS) fighting al Shabaab, which controls significant portions of the country. An additional estimated 5,000-7,000 Ethiopian troops are stationed in various regions under a bilateral agreement.

Tensions between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa escalated earlier this year after Ethiopia, a landlocked country, agreed to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline from Somaliland. Somaliland, a region that claims independence from Somalia and has maintained effective autonomy since 1991, has not been internationally recognised. Ethiopia’s offer to Somaliland included possible recognition in exchange for establishing a naval base and commercial port, a move deemed illegal by Mogadishu.

‘If they do not repeal the agreement before the end of June, or when the new mandate of the mission is decided, all Ethiopian troops, ATMIS and bilateral, will have to go,’ Somalia’s national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali told Reuters. ‘Ethiopia cannot be an ally and at the same time an aggressor.’

Spokespeople for the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) did not respond to requests for comment.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), mandated by the UN Security Council, is set to fully withdraw and hand over security responsibilities to the Somali state by the end of 2024. However, the Somali government has repeatedly requested to slow down the withdrawal of troops, citing setbacks on the battlefield. The troops in ATMIS come from Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

A new, smaller peacekeeping mission is expected to be announced by the end of June. Somalia has requested that Ethiopia not be included among the troop-contributing countries, according to AU and African diplomats familiar with the plan.

‘Given the current political climate, it will not be possible to have ENDF be part of an AU-led mission,’ Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs Ali Omar told Reuters.

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