Somalia expels Ethiopian ambassador, orders closure of two consulates

WASHINGTON — Somalia said it expelled Ethiopia’s ambassador in Mogadishu and ordered the closure of two consulates — one each in the semi-autonomous Puntland region and the breakaway Somaliland region — in a dispute over a port deal. 

“The plain interference of Ethiopia’s government in the internal affairs of Somalia is a violation of the independence and sovereignty of Somalia,” said the office of Somalia’s prime minister in a statement Thursday. 

The decision followed a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hamza Barre in Mogadishu. 

A separate statement by Somalia’s foreign ministry said it had ordered Ethiopian Ambassador Muktar Mohamed Ware to leave the country within 72 hours, effective Thursday. 

In an interview with VOA Somali, Somalia’s information minister, Daud Aweis Jama, said the decision came as Ethiopia continued to interfere in Somalia’s internal affairs. 

“Nowadays Ethiopia has been repeatedly violating Somalia’s national, territorial independence. Therefore, the government has taken this decision to close two Ethiopian consulates and send [the] Ethiopian ambassador in Mogadishu and their diplomatic staff back to their country,” said Aweis. 

Tension has been simmering 

Tensions have been growing between Ethiopia and Somalia since January, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed “a memorandum of understanding” with Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi, who had been visiting Addis Ababa. 

Both Ethiopia and Somaliland authorities described it as a “historic” initial agreement that would give Somaliland a path to recognition and allow landlocked Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea. 

Ethiopia said it wanted to set up a naval base there and offered possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange. 

Somaliland has operated independently from Somalia since 1991 but is not recognized by any other country as a sovereign state. 

The Somali government strongly rejected the memorandum of understanding and recalled its ambassador in Ethiopia in protest. 

A month later, in February, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called the deal illegal and said that his country would “defend itself” if Ethiopia goes ahead with it. 

Mohamud also said at the time, he did not plan to kick Ethiopian diplomats out of the country. 


Today’s government decision, however, came a day after the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, which is also a federal member state, announced it had signed a new cooperation agreement with Addis Ababa. 

Puntland, whose relationship with Mogadishu has been marred by political disputes, said days ago that it had withdrawn from the country’s federal system and that it would govern itself independently, following a dispute over constitutional changes approved by Somalia’s bicameral parliament. 

“Somalia’s federal government is responsible for the country’s foreign affairs and we consider any agreement a country signs with a different side or a region a clear violation against Somali sovereignty,” said Aweis. 

In response to today’s government decision, Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Aidid Dirir accused Mogadishu of trying to assert its control on “a territory it does not govern.” 

“Mogadishu has failed to eradicate terrorist groups and spread governance across the country and now it is trying to impose its decisions on a peaceful region that does not run with its orders. It cannot close a consulate in Puntland,” Aidid told VOA. 

In an interview with VOA Somali, Somaliland Deputy Foreign Minister Rhoda Jama Elmi described Mogadishu’s decision as “a mere dream.” 

The “Mogadishu government had nothing to do with opening of the Ethiopian consulate in Somaliland and its decision has nothing to do with us. It has no impact on Somaliland,” he said. 

According to Reuters, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Nebiyu Tedla, said it did not have information on the Somali government decisions. 

Meanwhile, the Somali Cabinet of Ministers approved the appointment of Abdullahi Mohamed Ali Sanbaloolshe as the new director of the National Security and Intelligence Agency of Somalia (NISA), during the council’s weekly meeting in Mogadishu on Thursday. 

The newly appointed director has previously held the position of NISA’s director twice and has served in other roles, including minister and ambassador. Currently, he is a member of the lower house. 

According to the country’s constitution, the prominent member of parliament, a close ally of President Mohamud, will automatically lose his parliamentary seat. 

The new director will replace Mahad Mohamed Salad, who vacated the position, citing personal and future political plans. Government sources who asked for anonymity said Salad intends to run for the leader of Galmudug regional state in an election this year. 

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