Skip to main content

Somali president visits Qatar, Egypt amid row over Somaliland-Ethiopia deal

The tour comes after Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland signed a controversial deal that would give Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and President of the Federal Republic of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met on Tuesday with Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during an official visit to Doha, in his latest stop to an Arab capital following a controversial deal signed between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland earlier this month.

The Somali and Qatari leaders discussed bilateral relations and issues of mutual concern, Qatar’s state news agency said in a statement, without providing more details.

Mohamud landed in Doha on Monday, one day after a trip to Cairo where he met with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He was also in Eritrea earlier this month.

The Somali leader appears to be engaged in shuttle diplomacy to mobilize support against the memorandum of understanding reached between Ethiopia and Somaliland on Jan. 2.

Under the deal, Somaliland would lease 20 kilometers (12 miles) of its seacoast for 50 years to landlocked Ethiopia to use as a military base and for commercial purposes. It would also give Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea via the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. In exchange, Ethiopia would recognize the independence of Somaliland.

The deal raised concerns and sparked widespread controversy given Somaliland’s status. The region declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, but the move is still not internationally recognized.

Somalia slammed the memorandum, considering it a violation of its territorial integrity. Several countries in the region threw their support behind Somalia, including Turkey, Egypt and Eritrea.

The Arab League and the European Union also condemned the agreement, calling on Ethiopia to respect the sovereignty of Somalia.

The United States, for its part, expressed concerns that the deal would further fuel tensions in the already volatile region, calling on the concerned parties to engage in dialogue to resolve the dispute.

The African Union also called for restraint between Somalia and Ethiopia. In a statement last week, the AU urged the two parties to “de-escalate and engage in meaningful dialogue toward finding a peaceful resolution of the matter.”

Somalia, however, has refused any attempt at mediation.

“There is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal (memorandum) and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia,” the Somali Foreign Ministry said in a statement last Thursday.

Ethiopia, for its part, defended its agreement, arguing that no country would be impacted.

Ethiopia's National Security Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Redwan Hussein reiterated his country’s position on Sunday, saying in a post on X that the deal is meant for cooperation and partnership and is not an “annexation or assumption of sovereignty over the territory of any state.”

“Ethiopia & Somalia are not just neighbors who share a border but they are fraternal nations sharing a common language, culture & people,” Hussein wrote.

Egypt visit

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Somali counterpart in Cairo on Sunday, Sisi reaffirmed Egypt’s support for Somalia while rejecting any interference in its internal affairs.

“Egypt will not allow anyone to threaten Somalia or affect its security,” Sisi further warned.

For his part, Mohamud praised Egypt’s support for his country, stressing that Somalia will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty.

Qatar-Somali relations

Qatar and Somalia have enjoyed solid relations since diplomatic ties were established in 1970.

In 1983, the two countries signed a labor agreement to promote bilateral cooperation and provide work opportunities for Somalis in Qatar. The agreement was renewed in 2019.

Also in 2019, an agreement was signed between the two countries under which Qatar would build a seaport in Hobyo on Somalia’s northeast coast near the Gulf of Aden.