Somalia president: We will defend ourselves against Ethiopia's aggression

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud speaks during an interview with Reuters, in his office in Mogadishu, Somalia February 20, 2024. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of Somalia, insists the country shall defend itself against Ethiopia's expansionist ambitions, noting that no inch of the nation will be annexed by the Horn of Africa nation which is striving to get land for port and military base.

Ethiopia had signed a lease agreement with Somaliland which if implemented guarantees it 20 kilometers of the Red Sea for the establishment of a military base and port. The agreement will be effective for 50 years, the deal states.

In return, Ethiopia pledged to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign state as the region pushes for international recognition. For the last three decades, Somaliland has been leading a parallel government from that of Mogadishu, with its central bank.

But on Friday, Hassan Sheikh, who recently protested 'poor treatment' in Ethiopia during the African Union summit, said he would defend the country should Ethiopia implement the deal, which has been widely condemned by stakeholders.

"If Ethiopia insists, Somalia will resist and will refuse," Mohamud told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview at the heavily fortified presidential palace in Mogadishu. "If they come into the country, Somalia will do everything that it can to defend itself."

He did not go into further detail on what action Somalia might take. The Horn of Africa has experienced repeated conflicts, feeding humanitarian crises in areas prone to drought. Neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia fought over territory in 1977-1978 and 1982, AP reports.

Mohamud said he would only agree to discuss the matter with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when the government in Addis Ababa renounces its intention "to take part of our country".

Ethiopia's government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Abiy has previously said Ethiopia has no plans to start a conflict with Somalia and is merely trying to address its need for sea access.

Mohamud said he was not considering kicking out the nearly 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers stationed in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting militants from al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate.

The Ethiopian troops have been integral in the fight against Al-Shabaab in the country, leading operations in all frontlines along with troops from Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, and Burundi. Ethiopia maintains the deal is for commercial purposes.


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