Somaliland should be pragmatic & consider the option of Exchanging Territory with Ethiopia along 1946 Discussions

In 1946, the British government which administered British Somaliland has entered into serious discussions with the Ethiopia Emperor, Haile Selassie, regarding the exchange of territories. This was in response to the latter’s longstanding grumbling that they were deprived of access to the sea since the Anglo Ethiopian Treaty of 1897. The following are relevant excerpts from declassified British Document:

Following lengthy talks, the Ethiopians came up with a rather greedy proposal requiring the British to secede a wide coastal corridor of Somaliland extending from Lawyaddo to Eel Sheekh. In exchange, they agreed to give Hawd and Reserve and the Somali territory north of Wabi Shabeelle to Somaliland Protectorate.

The British, of course, rejected this proposal on the grounds that it was in controversy with Protectorate Treaty that Great Britain has concluded with the tribes of Somaliland in 1884/86.

A British counter-proposal stated that Ethiopia should take only a corridor comprising the Issa Tribal Land, adjacent to Djibouti. They were not in a position to give away the land of Gadabursi and Habar Awal of Issaq tribes.
The following are some excerpts:

Nonetheless, the two sides agreed to continue the negotiations. But, then, an incident that occurred in 1948 has brought these talks to a dead end. An American Company called Sinclar announced having discovered oil deposits in the Hawd/Ogaden Region. Consequently, the Ethiopian King Haile Selassie decided to shelf the discussions and rather retain the reportedly oil-rich land that he deemed will significantly facilitate vibrant economic growth for his country.

Today, Somaliland is for all practical purposes, an independent nation but requires international decoration of their already De Facto status. Somaliland possesses all the credentials of international recognition. But the regional and global geopolitical climate indicates that new nations are facing increasing pressure in gaining new friends or alliances for reasons outside the scope of this article.

Equally, the population of Ethiopia has grown to 100 million and that country is still suffering from lack of access to the sea, which is hindering their global trade and international reach.

More recently, there are growing indications that some regional players are fishing in dirty waters and negatively impacting the otherwise warm and mutually beneficial relationship that Somaliland has with neighbouring Ethiopia.
Furthermore, the young and ambitious PM of Ethiopia has a vision of Horn of African economic integration, the central theme of which is the notion that 100m Ethiopian should have access to the Sea.  These factors have obviously created unnecessary tension and, at times, misunderstanding between the two sides.
Each of Ethiopia and Somaliland is evidently are in search of a way out of their dilemmas – but looking the wrong direction.  It is obvious that the remedy of the problem faced by each lies in the hands of the other.
There are many options of the ways and means of how Ethiopia and Somaliland could cooperate and attain mutually beneficial socioeconomic integration.

Going back to the 1946 Drawing Board and considering Exchange of Territories could be a practical solution, that could bring about a long-lasting solution to the suffering of both Ethiopians and Somalilanders. Ethiopia will gain access to the sea and Somaliland will regain its historic territory of Hawd and Reserve Area plus international recognition.

Hassan Abdi Yousuf
Geopolitical Analyst
Hargeisa, Somaliland


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