Abiy Ahmed’s administration now turns its quest for seaport access to Eritrea in a bid to meet Ethiopia’s economic and geopolitical goals. While addressing the Ethiopian parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, revealed that the country is seeking access to the seaport of Massawa or Assab, which he argued is vital to Ethiopia’s economic growth.
According to Ethiopian News Agency,PM Ahmed plans to achieve this goal through dialogue with the Eritrean government.
“Actually we are not insisting on Massawa or Assab specifically. As a country, we are just seeking an accessible gateway. However, it may materialize through purchase, leasing, or any mutual arrangement, this is our objective,” Ahmed said, referring to the Eritrean port cities, once the country’s key gates to the outside world. “
However Eritrean government responded to the speech with a secretive statement, “The Government of Eritrea (GOE) reiterates that it will not, as ever, be drawn into such alleys and platforms. The GOE further urges all concerned not to be provoked by these events.”
Eritrean diplomats were clearer in defending their country over the Ethiopian government. Eritrean ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, revealed the country would defend its territory at all times.
“No amount of illegitimate instigation, propaganda, conspiracy, and defamation can change this truth,” he wrote on X [Twitter] earlier this month.
A senior diplomat in Addis Ababa while responding to media queries revealed that Abiy Ahmed was not declaring war but just expressing Ethiopia’s need for a seaport.
“Ethiopia deserves access to the sea for historical, geopolitical, and economic reasons. That access can be attained through negotiations and dialogue. It has to stop being a taboo to discuss this issue,” said the official answered the media.
The senior official further added “There are many options. We could lease it, purchase it, or develop it together. We are working with Kenya on the Lamu port. We are working with Somalia too. Ethiopia has a legitimate right to discuss this issue.”
History of Ethiopia and Eritrea
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea were once one country until 1993 when Asmara seceded. Before then, access to the sea was mostly via Massawa and Assab on the Red Sea coast. The two countries did not enjoy good relations until 2019, and Addis was forced to deal with Djibouti for access to the sea. It imports nearly 90 percent of goods via the Djibouti port.
Cost of importing goods via Djibouti
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed while addressing parliament did reveal that the cost is higher in Djibouti.
According to the PM, Ethiopia’s future strategic interests lie in access to the sea, which could also enable it to build its navy and secure trade routes.
Abiy added “When we had access to the Red Sea, we were one of the great powers. Declaring ‘I will take yours, but I won’t give you mine’ is inappropriate. Ethiopia, indeed, has every right too.”
Addis Ababa’s stance on the sea route adds to another continual dispute over natural resources. Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have been quarreling over the Grand Renaissance Dam (Gerd), a $5 billion project on the Blue Nile, which Khartoum and Cairo think will affect water availability to their population. Addis Ababa has gone on to fill it four times already even though it still attends sessions seeking to get an amicable solution of the Gerd use.