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Ethiopia denies receiving Somali notice on peacekeeping troop withdrawal

Monday June 10, 2024

Nabiu Tedla, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addresses the media during a press conference in Addis Ababa.

Mogadishu (HOL) — Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it has not received any official communication from the Somali government regarding the withdrawal of Ethiopian peacekeeping forces from Somalia.

Nabiu Tedla, the ministry’s spokesperson, addressed recent reports from Somalia’s National Security Adviser claiming Ethiopian troops would be withdrawn. Tedla emphasized that Ethiopia is unaware of any such decision and has not been formally informed by Somali officials.

“There has been no official diplomatic communication from Somalia on this matter,” Tedla said. He added that discussions about the forces set to replace the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) have not yet begun, and the initial phase of ATMIS is still ongoing.

At least 8,000 Ethiopian soldiers are currently stationed in Somalia under a bilateral agreement between the two countries and the African Union’s temporary ATMIS mission. However, the Somali government, upset with the maritime MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland, has requested that Ethiopian troops leave by the end of 2024.

Relations between Ethiopia and Somalia have been strained since Ethiopia signed an MoU with Somaliland on January 1, 2024. The agreement, which grants Ethiopia sea access and allows for the establishment of a military base in Somaliland, was seen by Somalia as a violation of its sovereignty. The deal led to the expulsion of Ethiopia's ambassador to Somalia in April and the closure of Ethiopian consulates in Somaliland and Puntland.

Somalia's National Security Advisor, Hussein Sheikh Ali, stated that Ethiopia's actions prevent it from being considered an ally in regional peace and security efforts. He confirmed that new troops from Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi will replace ATMIS forces after December 2024, and Ethiopian troops will not be part of the new mission.

Officials from Somalia's Southwest and Jubaland regions oppose the federal government's plan to withdraw Ethiopian troops, fearing it could benefit al-Shabab militants. Jubaland Deputy President Mohamud Sayid Aden and Southwest State Security Minister Hassan Abdulkadir Mohamed have both expressed a preference for Ethiopian troops to remain.

The Ethiopian-Somaliland MoU has broader regional implications. Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi defended the deal, suggesting it would help secure navigation in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, areas plagued by Houthi rebel attacks. The agreement includes plans for Ethiopia to build a naval base and commercial port in Somaliland in exchange for recognizing Somaliland's independence.

Despite Somalia's objections, Somaliland continues to pursue the agreement, viewing it as a path to international recognition. However, the deal has raised concerns among neighbouring countries and the international community, who fear it could escalate regional conflicts.

The African Union and Somali officials are currently negotiating the specifics of the new peacekeeping mission, expected to be announced by the end of June. Somalia has requested that Ethiopia not be included among the troop-contributing countries due to the ongoing political tensions.


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