Opportunities for New Horizon of Cooperation between Ethiopia and Somalia

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By Staff Writer
A couple of days back, in a highly contested election of three rounds, the Somali parliament reelected Hassan Sheikh Mohammed replacing Mohammed Abdullahi Farmaaajo. The election which was postponed for more than a year is expected to open a new horizon in Somalia’s diplomatic and comprehensive relations with the neighboring countries, Ethiopia in particular.
In his congratulatory message to the new president of Somalia who is elected for the second time, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed congratulated the new president of Somalia and expressed his interest to work with the president on the ongoing and bilateral issues. President Hassan Sheik Mohamud thanked Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his congratulatory message and replied “Thank you so much your Excellency Abiy Ahmed Ali. I certainly look forward to working with you on enhancing our bilateral and diplomatic relations.”
The Ambassador of Ethiopia to Somalia Abdulfatah Abdullahi Hassan had also a meeting with President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. During the occasion, Ambassador Abdulfatah has delivered the goodwill messages of President Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the new President. The two sides also noted the need to further scale up the friendly diplomatic and people-to-people relations between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Moreover, expressing its readiness to work with the new president of Somalia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia issued a statement stating that “The Ministry believes that the election demonstrates the confidence of the people of Somalia in you and is a leap forward to building a democratic process in the country.”

Somalia had been without formal government for more than two decades. Ethiopia is one of the countries that have been providing critical supports following the establishment of formal government system in Somalia particularly in enhancing the peace and stability of the country. Ethiopia played a constructive role in the formation of the Transition Government of Somalia in 2016 and since then, Ethiopian armed forces have shed their blood to ascertain peace and stability in the country. Ethiopia and Somalia have a lot in common. Both countries share a wider common border. The two nations have a huge potential of trade and investment relations which need to be exploited for the benefit of the peoples of both countries.

Ethiopia and Somalia can cooperate on cross border trade based on the comparative advantages that both countries can enjoy. With the joint development of transport networks on land and air transport, both countries can contribute a lot to economic integration in the Horn of Africa which will be instrumental in ensuring peace and stability in the region.

In 2018, 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. Although Ethiopia has already achieved a considerable share of 19% ownership on the Berbera Port, the country is also interested to jointly develop other ports of Somalia including Mogadishu, Bosasso and Kismayou.

Somalia has agreed on a barter trade deal with Ethiopia that enables them to export fish to their neighbors in exchange for Khat (miraa). The deal is part of a landmark bilateral agreement signed by the leaders of these two countries in June 21, 2021. Experts have said the new pact, other than boosting bilateral trade relations between the two countries, will also spur development in the Horn of Africa by creating employment opportunities.

The cooperation between Ethiopia and the new government of Somalia is based on common interests for developments and the challenges that both countries face certainly requires a strong comprehensive cooperation in the areas of security and threats from Al-Shabab, cross border arms trafficking, illegal trade and contraband, the struggle against climate change and prevention of cross border epidemics and health hazards.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Dina Mufti told local media this week that “the peace and security of the region has been one of the biggest agenda.  We have been fighting against Al-Shabab and will continue this together. We can also cooperate with supply of energy in addition to infrastructure networking both in air and land as well as enhancing the trade relation as the existing trade relation is high between the countries.  We have also strong interest to boost the social relations of Ethiopia and Somalia.”

Ethiopia can share hydro-electric power with Somalia and also engage in capacity building programs in enhancing higher education and transfer of technologies in the areas of ICT and agricultural technologies. The recurrent prevalence of climate change induced drought provides an excellent opportunity for promoting food security programs focusing on livestock development, irrigation in semi-arid areas of the two countries and diversification of agricultural activities by utilizing local resources. The trade and economic cooperation between Somalia enhances mutual benefits for both countries and will specifically promote peace and stability in the otherwise volatile region of the Horn of Africa.

Promoting bilateral cultural relations between Ethiopia and Somalia through people to people relations and the support that Ethiopia can provide in building the capacity of administrative and development institutions will further strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Through agreements with the new government, institutes of higher education, public and private universities in the country can continue to provide scholarships for Somali students in the context of cross cultural relations.

Experts advise the leaders of the two countries to enhance ways with a view to exploiting these potentials for the benefit of the people in the nations. For instance Somalia’s Institute for Federalism and Security Analysis (IFSA) Chairperson Professor Sonkor Geyre pointed out that the newly elected president of Somalia is expected to further enhance the long standing relationship and cooperation between Somalia and Ethiopia for the benefit of the people in the two countries and the peace building efforts in the region. According to the professor, Ethiopia is a very important country to Somalia in terms of several aspects, including security, trade and development. The relationship of the two countries is long standing and smooth that has still been moving ahead to a better level with common vision. And in this regard, the scholar said the newly elected president of Somalia has the skill and experience to further continue this relationship. With possible commitments from both the government of Ethiopia and Somalia, the people of the two countries can enjoy a better life in their battle against poverty and under development.