Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made significant statements aimed at easing concerns among neighboring countries regarding the possibility of military action to secure maritime access. Abiy’s remarks come in the wake of heightened tensions in the Horn of Africa region, sparked by his earlier comments asserting Ethiopia’s right to access the Red Sea through peaceful means.
In a televised address to the nation on October 13, Abiy Ahmed emphasized Ethiopia’s desire to assert its landlocked nation’s right to access the Red Sea peacefully. While this assertion was rooted in historical, economic, and strategic considerations, it raised concerns among regional governments about the potential for conflict.
Coastal Eritrea, an independent nation since 1993 following a protracted civil war, responded to the recent discourse on the Red Sea issue by describing it as “excessive.” Eritrea called on concerned parties to exercise restraint but did not directly address Abiy’s comments. Subsequently, both Ethiopia and Eritrea reportedly moved troops closer to their shared border, heightening anxieties about the possibility of a new conflict in a region already grappling with instability.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sought to allay these concerns by addressing thousands of soldiers in the capital, Addis Ababa. He emphatically stated that Ethiopia had never invaded any country and had no intentions of doing so. Abiy affirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to pursuing its interests through peaceful means, rejecting the use of force against its neighbors.
The recent troop movements near the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia have added complexity to the situation. Eritrea deployed troops in the town of Bure, along the border with Ethiopia’s Afar region, while Ethiopia moved troops toward the same border, according to diplomats and humanitarian sources. These developments have further fueled regional apprehensions.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring an end to two decades of hostility between Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, relations have deteriorated in recent times, with Eritrea’s exclusion from peace talks that concluded the conflict in the Tigray region, and the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray.
Alan Boswell, Project Director for the Horn of Africa at the International Crisis Group, noted the growing strain in relations between Addis Ababa and Asmara over the past year. He expressed concerns that the relationship could further deteriorate, potentially leading to hostilities.
In response to Prime Minister Abiy’s recent statements, a senior official from Djibouti emphasized his country’s sovereignty. Djibouti hosts naval bases for several nations, including the United States and China. The official, Alexis Mohamed, a senior adviser to Djibouti’s president, stated firmly that Djibouti’s territorial integrity was non-negotiable.
Somalia’s government has not yet provided an official response to the situation. The evolving dynamics in the region underscore the need for diplomatic efforts and dialogue to address the complex challenges surrounding maritime access and regional stability.
As the Horn of Africa navigates these complexities, the international community is watching closely, hoping for a peaceful and cooperative resolution to these pressing issues. The path forward will require diplomatic finesse, commitment to dialogue, and a shared vision of stability and prosperity in the region.