In a recent interview with African Business, Dileita Mohamed Dileita, the former Prime Minister and current President of Djibouti’s National Assembly, shed light on the country’s position on various issues, including the historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Somaliland and Ethiopia.

The insights provided by Dileita offer a glimpse into the complex web of regional politics and the delicate balance that Djibouti is trying to maintain.

One Somalia Policy

Dileita reiterated Djibouti’s long-standing stance of recognizing only one Somalia, despite having signed an agreement with Somaliland on the free movement of goods. “As far as we are concerned, there is only one Somalia, even though we have signed an agreement with Somaliland on the free movement of goods,” Mr. Dileata asserted.

This seemingly contradictory position highlights the intricate nature of Djibouti’s relationships with its neighbors. On the one hand, Djibouti has been a vocal supporter of Somali unity, and its recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia is a testament to this commitment. On the other hand, the country’s economic interests and strategic location have led it to engage with Somaliland, which has declared independence from Somalia.


The agreement on the free movement of goods is a pragmatic move by Djibouti to strengthen its economic ties with Somaliland, which shares a border with Ethiopia. However, this move has not gone unnoticed, and it has raised concerns in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian government has been wary of Somaliland’s growing influence in the region, and its own ambitions to access the Red Sea have led it to seek alternative arrangements.

Overall, Dileita Mohamed Dileita’s interview also revealed Djibouti’s strong opposition to the recognition of Somaliland as a separate entity, as he said: The recognition they are fighting for is unthinkable because the very basis for the creation of the African Union is the inviolability of the borders inherited from colonization. The AU’s predecessor, the OAU, was formed by all the independent African countries in 1963. The only country that was created after that was South Sudan because negotiations were held.”

However, Dileita Mohamed Dileita’s stance overlooks the historical background of Somaliland. He failed to acknowledge that Somaliland was a British protectorate and gained independence from the UK on June 26, 1960, before Djibouti and Somalia could become independent. This historical fact challenges Djibouti’s assertion regarding the inviolability of colonial borders and the recognition of Somaliland as a separate entity.

Dileita Mohamed Dileita Reveals Djibouti's Hostile Tactics To Counter Somaliland-Ethiopia Deal
Muse Bihi – Ismail Omar Guelleh – Abiy Ahmed © Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu via AFP – Billy Mutai/Anadolu via AFP – Amanuel Sileshi/AFP

The MOU: A Game-Changer in Regional Politics

The MOU between Somaliland and Ethiopia, which allows Ethiopia access to part of Somaliland’s coastline, has sent ripples across the region. Djibouti, which has long been the primary port of entry for Ethiopian goods, is understandably concerned about the potential implications of this agreement. The MoU has the potential to shift regional dynamics, with Ethiopia gaining a strategic foothold in the Red Sea.

Dileita’s concerns about the MoU are not unfounded. The agreement has sparked fears of a potential loss of revenue for Djibouti, which has invested heavily in its port infrastructure. Moreover, the MoU has raised questions about the long-term implications for regional security and stability. Djibouti’s concerns are not limited to economic interests; the country is also wary of the potential security risks associated with Ethiopian access to the Red Sea. “As far as we are concerned, we have very good relations with Ethiopia, even if there have been some minor reservations about the agreement they signed with Somaliland,” he said.

Regarding Ethiopia potentially striking a port deal with Somaliland, Dileita acknowledged potential concerns but saw no issue if Ethiopia engaged in agreements with recognized nations like Kenya and Sudan. He asserted, “We have a very special relationship with this country, which we have helped a great deal and which supports us. Most of our port trade is with them. It’s legitimate for Ethiopia to look for other opportunities in terms of ports because they have more than 100 million inhabitants, but it has to be done according to the rules. If tomorrow they sign a partnership with Kenya or another country like Sudan, that’s perfectly legitimate, but with a country that isn’t recognized, that poses problems.”

President Guelleh’s Diplomatic Efforts

In response to the MoU, President Ismail Omar Guelleh has been actively working to obstruct the agreement by reinforcing the African Union’s principle of inviolable colonial borders. However, the historical fact of Somaliland challenges Djibouti’s assertion regarding the inviolability of colonial borders.

“President Ismail Omar Guelleh has gone to tackle this issue,” Mr. Dileita said and pointed out that the issue of Somaliland is being managed directly by the President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh. “President of the Republic of Djibouti has taken the Somaliland issue in hand.”

This move clearly indicates Djibouti’s commitment to upholding the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. President Guelleh seeks to rally regional support against the MoU and protect Djibouti’s interests by invoking the African Union’s principles.

Djibouti’s diplomatic efforts are not limited to the African Union. The country has also engaged with other regional organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to build a coalition against the MoU. This multi-pronged approach is a testament to Djibouti’s commitment to protecting its interests and maintaining regional dominance.

Throughout, Guelleh has consistently opposed Somaliland’s recognition. In October 1996, late Somaliland President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal explicitly cited Djibouti’s hindrance in gaining international recognition, based on Djibouti’s opposition within the AU and Arab League.


The interview with Dileita Mohamed Dileita provides valuable insights into Djibouti’s stance on Somaliland’s recognition and the MoU between Somaliland and Ethiopia. Despite its engagement with Somaliland, Djibouti’s recognition of only one Somalia highlights the complex nature of regional politics. Djibouti’s diplomatic efforts to obstruct the agreement clearly indicate its commitment to protecting its interests.