Somalia expels Ethiopia ambassador over 'interference'

Tensions have been inflamed between Somalia and Ethiopia since Addis Ababa signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland.

Published - April 05, 2024 01:48 am IST - Mogadishu

Somalia's government on April 04 ordered the expulsion of Ethiopia's ambassador and the closure of two consulates, accusing Addis Ababa of "bluntly interfering" in its internal affairs.

The announcement comes as Somalia is locked in a fierce dispute with Ethiopia over a maritime deal that Addis Ababa signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland in January — raising tensions in the Horn of Africa.

The cabinet said in a statement that the foreign ministry was instructed to "inform the ambassador of the Ethiopian government in the Federal Republic of Somalia to return to his country for consultations".

It also said it was ordering the shutdown of Ethiopian consulates in Somaliland and in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and the departure of their diplomats and staff within two weeks.

The cabinet statement charged that the Ethiopian government was "bluntly interfering with Somalia's internal affairs and is in violation of Somalia's sovereignty".

The move followed a visit on April 03 by a delegation headed by Puntland's finance minister Mohammed Farah Mohammed to Ethiopia, where he was welcomed by the state minister of foreign affairs Mesganu Arga.

Puntland, which has long had difficult relations with the central government in Mogadishu, announced on Sunday it would no longer recognise federal institutions over changes to the constitution approved by parliament.

Tensions have been inflamed between Somalia and Ethiopia since Addis Ababa signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland that gives the landlocked country long-sought sea access.

Under the pact, Somaliland agreed to lease 20 kilometres (12 miles) of its coast for 50 years to Ethiopia, which wants to set up a naval base and a commercial port on the coast.

In return, Somaliland — which unilaterally declared independence in 1991 — has said Ethiopia would give it formal recognition, although these assertions have not been confirmed by Addis Ababa.

"Somalia stands firm on its sovereignty! In light of Ethiopian interference in our internal affairs, we've demanded Ethiopia's ambassador leave within 72 hours & are closing consulates in Hargeisa & Garowe," Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs Ali Omar said on X.

"Our resolve in protecting our territory is steadfast," he said.

Last month, Molly Phee, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, called on the two nations to resolve their dispute.

She had met separately in Addis Ababa with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and in Mogadishu with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and said the United States offered to help them "communicate better."

"The region can ill-afford more conflict," she told reporters.

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