Berbera development dispute is instability risk

Port of Berbera Somalia declared a Port of Berbera investment deal between DP World, the state of Somaliland and Ethiopia "void". Image courtesy of Lakmi00/ Wikimedia
Industry Database

A dispute over plans to develop Somaliland’s Port of Berbera risks destabilising the Horn of Africa region, Somaliland’s foreign affairs minister has claimed.

Saad Ali Shire’s warning, reported by Bloomberg, follows the Federal Government of Somalia’s declaration earlier this month that a Port of Berbera investment deal between DP World, the state of Somaliland and Ethiopia was “non-existent, null and void”, arising from the fact that Somalia doesn’t recognize Somaliland’s 1991 declaration of autonomy.

“If Somalia decides to invade Somaliland” over the development of the port, “then we will have the right to defend our territory,” Mr Shire said in a phone interview, according to Bloomberg.

Economic aims

Mr Shire was speaking from Abu Dhabi on 17 March, where he was part of a Somaliland delegation meeting Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, the U.A.E.’s deputy prime minister. “That confrontation of course will not be limited to us,” he reportedly said.

Ethiopia was due to take a 19% stake in the Port of Berbera, following the signing of an agreement with DP World and the Somaliland Port Authority, which would have seen the former hold a 51% stake in the project and the latter 30%.

Shire told reporters in Dubai this week that Ethiopia’s acquisition of a stake in the port was “a symbol of recognition.” Somaliland’s declaration of autonomy from Somalia has yet to be recognized by any other nation, reported Bloomberg.

However, the stake is “not related to sovereignty or recognition of Somaliland,” Ethiopian Transport Minister Ahmed Shide stated, according to Bloomberg.

Planned talks between Somaliland and Somalia, including on the “final status” of their relationship are on hold because “there’s no point sitting across the table in this sort of atmosphere,” Shire said

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