On May 18, Somaliland witnessed a historic moment during its 33rd-anniversary celebrations as President Muse Bihi Abdi announced the elevation of the Ethiopian representative office to a full-fledged diplomatic mission in Hargeisa. This decision symbolizes a momentous shift in diplomatic relations between the two nations and holds significant implications for the geopolitical landscape of the Horn of Africa.

President Abdi’s unveiling of this strategic move at a critical national event underscored the deepening ties between Somaliland and Ethiopia. The decision to upgrade the Ethiopian office to a diplomatic mission reflects a shared commitment to enhancing diplomatic cooperation and fostering mutual understanding between the two countries.

Subsequent statements from Somaliland’s Minister of Information, Ali Hassan Mohamed, reinforced the authenticity and importance of this diplomatic development. Minister Mohamed, in an interview with BBC Somali, emphasized the gravity of the announcement, further solidifying the significance of this strategic decision.

Somaliland's Diplomatic Milestone Ethiopian Mission Upgrade Signals Policy Shift
Muse Bihi Abdi, President of Somaliland

Ethiopia’s Response and Recent Appointments

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through spokesperson Ambassador Nebiu Tedla, addressed inquiries regarding the status of the Hargeisa consulate in Somaliland.

When questioned about the potential elevation of Ethiopia’s Hargeisa consulate to an embassy, Ambassador Nabiyu chose not to directly address the query. Instead, the spokesperson indicated that aside from the appointment of Delil Keder as ambassador, there were no further comments to make.

Somaliland's Diplomatic Milestone Ethiopian Mission Upgrade Signals Policy Shift
The spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Nebiyu Tedla

Ambassador Nabiu highlighted that Delil Keder, one of the recently designated ambassadors by President Sahlework Zewde, is a seasoned diplomat with extensive experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although an official stance is still awaited, recent diplomatic assignments, such as Delil Kedir Bushra being appointed as the ambassador to Somaliland, hint at a possible step towards formal recognition.

Somaliland's Diplomatic Milestone Ethiopian Mission Upgrade Signals Policy Shift
The Ethiopian Ambassador to Somaliland, Ambassador Deil Kedir Bushra, granted credentials to Somaliland President Muse Bihi in March 2023.

The news about the consular upgrade emerged despite Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s decision to expel Ethiopia’s Ambassador Muktar Mohamed Ware from Mogadishu within 72 hours. Additionally, Somalia announced the closure of the Consulates General in Hargeisa and Garowe, the capital cities of Somaliland and Puntland, respectively, within seven (7) days.

Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Somalia deteriorated significantly after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on January 1st, granting Ethiopia access to a leased military base in Somaliland in exchange for recognition.

Both Hargeisa and Garowe have rebuffed Somalia’s decision, stating that it does not impact their relationship with Addis Ababa.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on military access and potential recognition of Somaliland’s independence signifies a significant step towards bolstering cooperation between Ethiopia and Somaliland. These defense agreements and collaborations signal a deepening strategic alignment between the two nations amidst evolving challenges in the region.

Somaliland's Diplomatic Milestone Ethiopian Mission Upgrade Signals Policy Shift
Ali Hassan Mohamed, Somaliland’s Minister of Information

Minister Ali Mohamed Hassan also spoke about the MoU during his BBC Somali interview, confirming that the agreement is on track and will be executed following international treaty protocols.

In conclusion, the upgrade of the Ethiopian representative office to a diplomatic mission in Somaliland marks a critical juncture in the nation’s diplomatic narrative. As Ethiopia and Somaliland navigate shifting alliances and regional complexities, this move accentuates the vital role of diplomatic endeavors in promoting stability and cooperation in the Horn of Africa.