Addis Abeba – In a lengthy interview with the Somaliland National Television (SLNTV), Muse Bihi Abdi, the President of Somaliland, shed light on the recent MoU signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland, clarifying some confusions surrounding the deal. According to the president, the deal grants Ethiopia a naval base on the Red Sea, whereas Somaliland gets formal recognition as an independent state from Ethiopia, with both events occurring concurrently. Moreover he highlighted that the strip of land that Somaliland leases to Ethiopia will be used strictly for military purposes and does not involve any commercial activities, adding that Ethiopia’s imports and exports will utilize the port of Berbera under the jurisdiction of Somaliland. The president responded to claims from Somalia, and subsequent statements made by Egypt and the Arab League, among others.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, can you provide us with an update on the recent agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia?
President Muse Bihi: The recent agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia highlights the shared mutual interests of both nations, aiming to further enhance their bilateral relations. It is a reflection of the fact that every president primarily serves the interests of their respective people. Notably, Ethiopia, being a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa with a significantly large population, has been eagerly seeking access to a port for a considerable period.
Simultaneously, Somaliland has been striving for recognition for the past thirty years. Consequently, during discussions with PM Abiy Ahmed, it became apparent that he, too, required access to the sea, and we recognized this demand. As a result, a memorandum of understanding has been agreed upon, wherein Somaliland will lease a naval base to Ethiopia’s navy. Moreover, Ethiopia will become the first nation to formally recognize Somaliland, with both events occurring concurrently. These two crucial aspects form the foundation of the agreement, while additional cooperation encompasses various areas such as the economy, security, and climate change.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on the Somali government’s claim of controlling all the seas of Somaliland?
President Muse Bihi: I believe that up until 1991, everyone was aware of the situation in Somalia, including Somalia itself. However, after the collapse of the unified government of the 1960s, Somaliland established its own government while Somalia did the same. It is important to note that there is no problem with our government in Somaliland, as it operates under a presidential system, while Somalia’s government operates under a parliamentary system. Additionally, we have two separate parliaments and constitutions in place.
In terms of international relations, we solely represent Somaliland and engage with the world independently. There is no place for Somalia to interfere or intervene in our affairs. Regardless of their efforts, Somalia holds no influence over the status or legitimacy of Somaliland. Furthermore, it is worth noting that Somalia currently lacks the capability and strength to pose any challenge to us in the present day.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, we have been informed that during your meeting with Hassan Sheikh in Djibouti before you visited Ethiopia, he acknowledged the fact that our two countries united in 1960. Can you confirm the validity of this statement?
A small piece of land has been leased to the Ethiopian navy as a naval base, with the understanding that trade and ports in Somaliland fall under our jurisdiction. The agreement specifies that Ethiopia’s imports and exports will utilize the port of Berbera.
President Muse Bihi: It is undisputed that the mentioned date holds significant recognition, not only by him but by all. However, Hassan Sheikh maintains the belief that the unity observed in the 1960s is still applicable, despite the reality that Somalia faced a collapse in 1991, resulting in a divergence of paths for everyone involved. This clearly epitomizes the root cause of the disagreement.
QUESTION: In light of the Arab League and the President of Egypt’s threatening statements, what implications or impact can be expected on Somaliland?
President Muse Bihi: President Sisi of Egypt reaffirmed his commitment to protecting Somalia’s borders in response to the Arab League’s resolution. However, when examining the borders of Somalia and the unity mentioned in both resolutions from a legal perspective, it is widely recognized under the African Union Charter that Somaliland is considered one of the African countries based on historical borders, with Egypt being a signatory country. The Arab governments at that time were aware of this fact. Therefore, it raises the question of which specific borders in Somalia they are referring to when discussing defense.
Furthermore, the Arab League’s assertion of defending Somalia inevitably invites scrutiny of the situation in Palestine, given its close proximity. The Arab League’s efforts in Palestine have not achieved the same level of success as South Africa, which brought its case before the International Court of Justice, resulting in numerous resolutions.
From a military perspective, intervention and assistance are crucial in Rafah. The differences between Somaliland and Somalia are ultimately matters for them to address independently.
QUESTION: Could you shed some light on the agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia, as there appears to be confusion among many individuals, particularly among businessmen who are concerned about potential harm to their business ventures?
It is crucial to emphasize that this naval base is strictly for military purposes and does not involve any commercial activities or transportation of goods.President Muse Bihi
President Muse Bihi: A small piece of land has been leased to the Ethiopian navy as a naval base, with the understanding that trade and ports in Somaliland fall under our jurisdiction. The agreement specifies that Ethiopia’s imports and exports will utilize the port of Berbera.
It is crucial to emphasize that this naval base is strictly for military purposes and does not involve any commercial activities or transportation of goods. Therefore, the opposition to this agreement within Somalia seems to be based on distorted information.
Any conflicting reports are likely a product of a deliberate misinformation campaign by individuals in Somalia who are against the agreement.
There have been claims that non-believers are gaining influence over us, but it is important to acknowledge that Somalis living in Ethiopia constitute the third largest ethnic group, following the Amharas and Oromos. Over the past two decades, we have witnessed significant progress in the development of the Somali region within Ethiopia.
Currently, the ports in the Horn of Africa are strategically positioned to captivate a significant share of the Ethiopian market, accommodating various transactions and activities.
Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti are engaged in fierce competition, each striving to secure the largest share of the trade market. This has resulted in increased trade and reduced border tensions. As evidence of our efforts, we have successfully constructed a modern port dedicated to facilitating Ethiopia’s trade activities.
This innovative agreement aims to enhance regional connectivity and promote economic growth.
QUESTION: Does the agreement permit Ethiopia to officially acknowledge Somaliland as a sovereign nation?
President Muse Bihi: Absolutely! The official signing agreement will explicitly mention the recognition of Somaliland. The content of this agreement provides reassurance by acknowledging Somaliland as a distinct entity, and this fact is explicitly stated within the document. In doing so, fairness and legitimacy are ensured throughout the entire signing process.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, can you provide some clarification regarding the termination of all agreements between Somaliland and Somalia?
President Muse Bihi: There were multiple topics of discussion, but the most prominent one was how to effectively manage the economy. During the transfer of ICAO from Somaliland and Somalia, an agreement was signed to allow us to take over and divide ourselves. Unfortunately, Somaliland overlooked this agreement due to Somalia’s recognition.
At the time of entering into the agreement, it was acknowledged that disputes may arise later and oversight is not uncommon. Somalia took advantage of this and condescendingly stated that Somaliland is merely a region, providing them with minimal resources and calling for their compliance.
Despite the support and assistance the world provides us for our country’s development, we should not disturb the grants, education, and development plans. It should be noted that the SDF, which is said to be well-managed, was created as a result of countless years of education provided for the Somali nation and has benefited thousands of students in Somaliland.
Interestingly, the funds sent by the World Bank for the development of Somaliland and Somalia were initially denied to Somaliland. However, those who initially refused to provide funding eventually sent $13 million to them.
It is important to acknowledge that if we engage in negotiations with an independent identity and stand our ground, there will be no consequences. The current situation in Somalia, with Hassan Sheikh expressing that they don’t possess weapons to attack us, is a clear indication of the impending consequences awaiting Somaliland, as it is a recognized entity. All parties involved are equally responsible for the agreement reached.
QUESTION: Why does Somalia, despite lacking control over Somaliland, consistently attempt to take credit for the absence of piracy incidents along Somaliland’s long coast, which has remained unaffected by such acts?
President Muse Bihi: Somaliland and Somalia became united in the 1960s, albeit without formal documentation. The two countries, closely linked linguistically and viewed as brethren, identified themselves as a unified entity.
However, in 1991, Somalia got entangled in a civil war while Somaliland opted for secession, causing Somalia’s belief in ‘There is only unity’ to gradually diminish.
It is worth noting that Somalia and Ethiopia are not involved in any mediation efforts since the matter does not directly concern Mogadishu and Addis Ababa. Somalia does not necessarily oppose the agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia, but rather, its concern lies in Somaliland assuming complete control over the deal. Somalia is keen on asserting Somalia’s influence over Somaliland, despite its non-existent authority.
The international community is fully aware of this situation, and even Hassan Sheikh acknowledges that he cannot bring about any change in Somaliland. He recognizes that his presence holds no significance, as it is evident that Somaliland is governed by a robust legal framework.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, can you please provide a statement in response to the assertions made by lawyers and the opposition that you have rejected and returned an election law for the legislative councils, specifically for the House of Representatives?
President Muse Bihi: The two chambers of our parliament, the Guurti and the House of Representatives, make up our legislative body. The process of creating a law involves three stages. First, the law is made by either the executive council or one of the chambers. Then, the law goes through the other two councils for input and approval. If both councils agree, it is sent to the President to review against the constitution. If the law doesn’t align with the Constitution, it is sent back for revisions.
However, if both chambers of parliament vote in favor of a law with a two-thirds majority, the President cannot send it back for revisions. In that case, if the President identifies any issues with the law, the matter will be referred to the Supreme Court.
Currently, the House of Representatives has submitted a bill. I’ve also received communication from the Speaker of the upper house (Guurti) stating that the passed draft law is incomplete. Therefore, I have requested that the bill be resubmitted for further discussion.
It is important to allow the two chambers to resolve their disputes and reach an agreement on the law they are discussing. Once they reach a consensus and if the law aligns with the constitution, the President will give approval. If the law doesn’t adhere to the constitution, it will become void after 21 days.
Let’s avoid confusion and unnecessary noise surrounding this matter. The debates and discussions between the two chambers should be kept within their domain without interference from opposition parties.
Question: The presidential election is approaching, and as a contender, how would you address the allegations that you are simply seeking to prolong your term?
President Muse Bihi: Upon receiving the election law back from the Senate, I never expected that the opposition parties would mobilize their Members of Parliament in the House of Representatives to intervene on their behalf. The opposition’s objection to the proposed changes triggered protests, unfortunately resulting in casualties and the intervention of respected community leaders. These influential figures issued a ruling emphasizing that the three former parties should be allowed to participate in the presidential election, deserving recognition until a final decision is made. Although the House of Representatives supported this law, it underwent thorough scrutiny in the Senate but eventually received approval, except for unions.
As a result, I find myself disagreeing with certain aspects of this law while supporting others. I would also like to mention another well-known fact about the two current opposition parties causing trouble. It is widely known that we did not suffer a defeat in the 2017 elections. As someone who values fair competition and is willing to adapt if necessary, I support WADANI’s desire for an equitable and assertive election this year.
I strongly believe that success comes from integrity rather than excessive aggression. Therefore, I am puzzled as to why you suddenly want to take sides when all three parties are allowed to compete. What is the underlying motive behind their troubling actions towards us?
QUESTION: Your Excellency, as we wrap up this interview, what final message would you like to convey to the people of Somaliland?
President Muse Bihi: I am immensely grateful to the resilient people of Somaliland, who have consistently displayed strength and nobility. They are truly remarkable patriots, having made immeasurable sacrifices in their relentless pursuit of freedom and independence. From 1981 to 1991, they valiantly dedicated their lives and resources to the betterment of their beloved nation.
During the dark days of 1988, a staggering 50 thousand innocent civilians fell victim to the ruthlessness of the Somali government, as distressingly documented by the United Nations. However, in the face of such harrowing adversities, our people have managed to preserve their unwavering sense of nationalism, which deserves nothing but wholehearted admiration.
I firmly believe that we must continue to uphold and abide by the principles and regulations we have established. Moreover, we must always adhere to the values of religious tolerance and respect, as well as our own crafted laws. In situations where disagreements arise, it is our responsibility to prioritize the collective welfare and work towards protecting the common good. AS
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted in Af-Somali and the transcript was first posted on X (formerly Twitter) by the office of the Somaliland Presidency (Madaxtooyada JS).