Is the Ethiopia-Somaliland deal the crucial breakthrough that will lead to broader recognition and even UN membership?

Prof James Ker-Lindsay

On January 1, 2024, Ethiopia and Somaliland signed a significant agreement granting Ethiopia access to the Red Sea in exchange for potential recognition of Somaliland’s independence. The deal is seen as a momentous development for Somaliland, which has been internationally isolated since declaring independence from Somalia three decades ago. But is it the crucial breakthrough that will lead to broader recognition and even UN membership?

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somaliland has a population of around 6 million, predominantly ethnically Somali and Sunni Muslim. Its modern history involves a short-lived independence in 1960, followed by a problematic union with Italian Somaliland, leading to conflicts and eventual reclamation of independence in 1991. Despite building a stable state with democratic institutions, Somaliland struggled for recognition. The recent agreement with Ethiopia, while celebrated by Somalilanders, raises legal and political questions.


Although the deal implies recognition, the exact terms remain undisclosed, and Ethiopia has not officially acknowledged Somaliland. The agreement’s potential geopolitical consequences, including strained relations with Somalia, are significant. Somalia strongly opposes the deal and has hinted at military options, complicating the situation.

While many in Somaliland rejoice, Ethiopia’s recognition may face obstacles due to geopolitical complexities and may not necessarily lead to broader international acceptance of Somaliland. Despite initial optimism, the deal’s long-term impact remains uncertain.


00:00 Introduction and Titles

00:52 Somaliland and Recognition in International Relations

02:21 Somaliland: Location and Population

03:06 The Modern History of Somaliland

04:57 Somaliland’s Search for Recognition: From Colony to State

06:43 The Ethiopia-Somaliland Memorandum of Understanding

07:37 Has Ethiopia Recognized Somaliland?

09:27 Somalia’s Response to the Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU

11:40 International Reactions to the Memorandum

14:09 Somaliland’s Crucial Breakthrough?


Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Prime Minister of Ethiopia

President of Somalia