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Little from Bahr Dar meeting amid Ethiopia’s naval ambitions

Storyline:National News

By T. Roble

Despite what seemed deep conversations among the three leaders of Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia Friday in the northern city of Bahr Dar, little could be gleaned from the communique released today.

The statement instead talked of general issues covered during the one day talks among the three leaders despite earlier negotiations on Ethiopia’s foray into Somali ports as the landlocked country seeks to divest from reliance on Djibouti.

“In their consultations, the three leaders reviewed developments and achievements since the signing in Asmara of the Joint Declaration on Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation between the three countries,” the statement read in part.

The statement also noted that the three leaders called for respect of Somalia’s territorial integrity in addition to welcoming the impending lifting of arms embargo by the UN Security Council on Eritrea.


However a statement by an Ethiopia top military man General Berhanu Jula pointed to what could have formed part of the agenda by the three leaders. Addressing the media this past week, Gen. Jula expressed his country’s desire for a presence within the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea waters.

“Although we do not have a sea outlet, we are very closer to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Now, we witnessed that many countries have showed a growing desire to build naval bases in Somalia, Djibouti, Puntland, and Eritrea and we can build our navy, standing 60 km away from the coast,” said Gen. Jula.

Gen. Jula said his country was ‘consulting with other countries regarding the naval reinstatement, capacity, and structure. Countries which acquired possessions around the Red Sea and Indian Ocean provide naval bases for other countries, so that, it is a strategic decision that Ethiopia has to develop maritime power within its proximity.”

With reports that UAE naval base in Somaliland will up for use next June, the three leaders could also be rallying to counter the Gulf nation’s influence in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea stretch.


In his inaugural visit to Mogadishu mid-June, Ethiopia’s Ahmed Abiy discussed with President Mohamed Farmaajo the options of his country’s investment in four of Somalia’s ports. There was no mention however on the specific ports but the statement seemed to legitimize Ethiopia’s 19% shareholding in Berbera Port deal which Mogadishu has vehemently objected to.

Addressing Parliament in March, Farmaajo warned foreign countries against any dealing without the consent of the Federal Government.

“I am warning countries and companies against crossing the limit to interfere with the sovereignty and unity of Somalia.”

But the June talks suggested the two leaders had settled the issue.

“In an effort to attract and retain foreign investment to the two countries and the Horn of Africa Region, the leaders agreed on the joint investment in four key sea ports between the two countries, and the construction of the main road networks and arteries that would link Somalia to mainland Ethiopia,” a Communiqué from the meeting said.

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It was not also clear from the meeting whether there was any progress in incorporating Djibouti in the new found partnership which has seen neck breaking diplomatic engagements since Abiy’s ascension to power in April.

During the Asmara meeting early September, the two countries dispatched Foreign Affairs Ministers to Djibouti in a bid to engage President Omar Guelleh who had earlier lambasted Farmaajo’s calling for the lifting of sanctions against Eritrea. Djibouti said it was yet to settle its disputes with its neighbor Eritrea over the Dumeira Island and Dumeira Mountain.