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Somalia to expel Ethiopian troops unless Somaliland port deal scrapped

Somalia to expel Ethiopian troops unless Somaliland port deal scrapped

Somalia will expel thousands of Ethiopian troops stationed in the country to help with security by the end of the year unless Addis Ababa scraps a disputed port deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland, a senior Somali official said on Monday.

Security experts and foreign diplomats said the move risks further destabilising Somalia as local forces would be unable to fill the security vacuum, which would likely be exploited by fighters from al Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaeda.

In the Horn of Africa, amidst the volatile landscape where al Shabaab holds sway over significant swathes of Somalia, a delicate dance of geopolitics unfolds. Ethiopian soldiers, numbering over 3,000, stand sentinel as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission (ATMIS), their presence a bulwark against the encroaching tide of extremism.

Yet, it is not just the threat of terrorism that shapes the region’s dynamics, but also the intricate web of diplomatic maneuvers. While a bilateral agreement dictates the deployment of an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 Ethiopian troops across various regions, recent events have strained the already taut relations between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu.

Earlier this year, tensions reached a fever pitch when landlocked Ethiopia brokered a controversial deal with Somaliland, a self-declared autonomous region within Somalia. The agreement saw Ethiopia leasing a strategic 20km stretch of coastline from Somaliland, a move met with swift condemnation from the Somali capital.

In exchange for this maritime foothold, Ethiopia dangled the tantalizing prospect of recognition before Somaliland, a coveted prize that has long eluded the enclave. The offer, however, came with a significant caveat – the establishment of a naval base and commercial port, a prospect vehemently denounced by Mogadishu as a breach of international law.

Thus, against the backdrop of insurgency and regional power plays, the Horn of Africa finds itself at a crossroads, where alliances shift like sand dunes in the desert, and every move carries the weight of a nation’s aspirations.

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