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Somaliland, a Breakaway African State, Will Be Given a Stake in Ethiopian Airlines in Return For Sea Port Access

Somaliland, a Breakaway African State, Will Be Given a Stake in Ethiopian Airlines in Return For Sea Port Access

a white airplane in the sky

The breakaway East African state of Somaliland has struck a deal with neighbouring Ethiopia which will give the disputed territory a stake in state-owned Ethiopian Airlines in return for access to the Red Sea port of Berbera in the Gulf of Aden.

Somaliland declared itself as an independent state in 1991 separating itself from Somalia, although its sovereignty is disputed by Mogadishu. No other country formally recognizes Somaliland as independent, and only Taiwan has previously referred to Somaliland as a country.

Ethiopia doesn’t formally recognise Somaliland as an independent country either but has decided to strike a deal with the defacto government in order to improve its access to shipping lanes.

The deal is likely to stoke tensions in the region, especially between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu, but Ethiopia is keen to maintain crucial maritime links.

As a landlocked country since 1993 when Eritrea declared independence, Ethiopia has, until now, been reliant on the small country of Djibouti for port access.

A memorandum of understanding between Ethiopia and the government of Somaliland will allow Ethiopia to lease land around Berbera for commercial purposes, as well as for a military base. The initial lease period is for 50 years and will also allow Ethiopia to build infrastructure and a road corridor to access the port.

As part of the deal, Somaliland will receive a stake in Ethiopian Airlines, a member of the Star Alliance and the largest airline in Africa.

In 2021, Ethiopian Airlines was accused of using commercial jets to transport military arms, including ammunition and rifles, for use by Ethiopian soldiers against Tigray separatists in a brutal and bloody civil war in the northern region.

The airline has consistently denied the allegations and accused campaigners of engaging in a highly elaborate plot to “tarnish the high reputation of the airline and defame its brand.”

The airline has also been accused of sacking or putting on administrative leave staff from the ethnic Tigrayan minority

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