The waters around the Horn of Africa are notorious for piracy and for many years a coalition of nations have stationed their naval vessels there to provide security for cargo ships, now something else is brewing in these waters which could trigger a war between two countries Somalia and its breakaway western half called Somaliland.
Somaliland has agreed to lease 20-Km of its coast to neighboring landlocked Ethiopia for commercial and naval use, in return Ethiopia has reportedly agreed to accord diplomatic recognition to Somaliland which since it broke away from Somalia in May 1991 remains in diplomatic limbo, not recognized by any country.
If Ethiopia recognizes Somaliland it opens the doors to potentially other African states, but it is widely suspected that Ethiopia’s leader Abiy Ahmed is playing for bigger stakes. After getting port facilities in Somaliland, he may seek to capture the Eritrean port of Assab on the Red Sea, it was part of Ethiopia before Eritrea broke away to become independent and took Assab with it.
Somalia says Somaliland is part of its territory and threatened it could go to war. Neighbouring Egypt has expressed full support for Somalia, so curiously has Turkey even though it is not known to have any commercial or strategic interests there.
The African Union has stepped in to calm tensions, so has the US which does not want to see another conflict at a time when it is preoccupied with Israel’s war on Gaza, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. The region also does not like the direction Abiy Ahmed is going. Djibouti, Kenya and Eritrea are reportedly joining together to form a bloc to counter Ethiopia.