Ethiopia’s Quest For Sea Access: Dangerous Defiance Of International Norms – OpEd


The recent assertion by the Ethiopian Prime Minister that Ethiopia, due to its landlocked status, Ethiopia does not have the right to forcibly secure sea access, is a deeply concerning departure from the principles of international cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Such a claim directly contravenes the United Nations Charter, international law, and the very ideals that underpin our interconnected world.

It is undoubtedly true that every nation possesses unique strengths. Some are blessed with vast reserves of minerals and oil, while others boast a strategic geopolitical location. However, the beauty of international diplomacy lies in the recognition that countries can — and should — leverage their strengths collaboratively, rather than seeking aggressive measures to remedy perceived weaknesses.

Historically, the claim to the right of access to and from the sea has been a significant point of contention. However, it is vital to distinguish between a country’s right to peaceful access to the sea, protected under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the outright territorial aggression. The former is about ensuring that landlocked countries have the means to trade and connect with the world; the latter is a flagrant violation of international norms.

Ethiopia’s past relationship with its neighboring countries has seen highs and lows. However, a claim to use force to obtain sea access not only jeopardizes these relationships but also sends a worrying message to the international community. A precedent where territorial ambitions can be justified on perceived disadvantages can lead to a slippery slope, risking regional and global stability.

Rather than eyeing expansionist policies, Ethiopia should focus on leveraging its numerous strengths. As the second most populous country in Africa, with a rich cultural heritage and rapidly growing economy, Ethiopia has much to offer. Furthermore, it can benefit from its existing trade routes and continue its partnerships with coastal neighbors. Mutual agreements, infrastructure development, and regional economic integration can provide a pathway to addressing Ethiopia’s concerns without resorting to aggression.

Every country faces unique challenges, and while being landlocked can pose certain economic and logistical constraints, it does not grant a nation carte blanche to infringe upon the sovereignty of its neighbors. Ethiopia’s claim, if acted upon, would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the hard-fought principles of peaceful state coexistence.

The international community must stand united in advocating for diplomacy, dialogue, and collaboration. It is through these principles that nations can overcome challenges, foster mutual growth, and create a world that respects the sovereignty and dignity of every state.

Somalis, irrespective of where they reside, hold a deeply-rooted belief in the inviolability of Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This unyielding conviction extends to every facet of the nation’s territory: its land, its vast maritime expanse, and the skies above. As enshrined in the Somali constitution, these territorial boundaries are viewed as sacrosanct and represent more than mere lines on a map. They embody the collective identity, history, and aspirations of the Somali people. Any discourse or suggestion that challenges or undermines this foundational belief is not only seen as an affront to the nation’s legal document but also to the very essence of what it means to be Somali. This deeply-held principle is non-negotiable and remains steadfastly beyond the purview of external discussions or compromise.

Ismail D. Osman

Ismail D. Osman is a Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him [email protected] @osmando

5 thoughts on “Ethiopia’s Quest For Sea Access: Dangerous Defiance Of International Norms – OpEd

  • October 18, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Where did you see any mention of use of force in what the Ethiopian PM stated? Stop spreading fake stories! Blatant lies. If you didn’t understand what the PM said ask for translation instead of making up lies for views.

    • November 22, 2023 at 11:15 pm

      Failed or not , Somalia still exists as a nation in terms of both of dejure and de factto status in the international norms and it has currently quasi admistrative and national istitutions albeit weak and corrupt . it is in league with dozens of african countries and other nations , which are either failed or semi failed states, including Ethiopia. So why single out Somalia as a failed state or what gives legal right for a nation to claim another state’s territory regardless of its poltical weakness and disfuncion? Or what precdent of legal code and notion gives a landlocked nation, big or small, populous or desolate, , regional power or underdog , to have a birth right to own its sea access? None whatsover.

  • October 19, 2023 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you, absolutely true. The dangerous message by Ethiopian PM is against the international Law.

  • October 19, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    The writer is not only distorting the reality on the ground, but he is also pretending as if he represents a functioning country called Somalia. Somalia is a failed state that does not govern its territory let alone its backyard. Abiy administration ‘s approach to the Horn of Africa is emanated from his internal political crisis. His friend Isayas became a target to beat up the drum of nationalism so that he elongates his power. On the other side of the coin, we do not need another war in this planet; the war in Ukraine and Israel are creating havoc on the economy, politics and social around the world. The integration of Horn of Africa is needed badly and that takes into consideration: Eritrea- Ethiopia peaceful rapprochement, the Berbera corridor and the Government of Somaliland recognition to use its port, the Blue Nile Basin of Egypt and Ethiopia peaceful negotiation including the ceasefire Sudan conflict. The Gulf countries have to stop interfering in the Horn and manage its business. Abiy ‘s days are numbered to stay in the power. He should learn a lesson from the previous dictators such as Siyad Barre, Mengestu and Omar Al bashir. We do not want to see another failed state aka Somalia in Horn of Africa.

    • October 25, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      Somalia now has a functioning government. There is no vacuum.
      On the other side Somalia is good neighbor to its African neighbors.
      Somaliland provided Ethiopia access to Berbera Sea port, and even gave Eithopia 19% share, after the port was enlarged and new modern cranes was brought in.
      Erhiopia was using that port for many years. All of a sudden they disappeared and went back to using DJibouti ports. Even they never paid their share (19%).
      in reality Ethiopia has direct access to any of the ports of the neighboring countries including Eriteria as before.
      But Abi doesnt want that. He wants a port under the ownership of Ethiopia. That is not possible, as Ethiopia is a landlocled country no one is going to give Ethiopia a free piece of land or seaport.. Ethiopian has a bad colonial history with its neighbors. In 1884 partition of Africa they were with the colonial powers of Europe and get their share of land from different nations and tribes in the horn of Africa, including Large portion of Somali territory. Ethiopia is a greedy colonial power inside east Africa.


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