A Win-Win Approach to Ethiopia’s Quest for Sea Outlet in the HoA Region

7 Mons Ago 11678
A Win-Win Approach to Ethiopia’s Quest for Sea Outlet in the HoA Region

Beyond all question, Ethiopians have long been questing for universal, historic, and geopolitical rights to access to a sea outlet amidst a series of challenges from foreign actors. Here lies why the overwhelming portion of Ethiopian history cannot be told detaching its history in the Red Sea.

When we refer the recent history of Ethiopia, following the independence of Eritrea in 1993, it is regrettable that the country has lost its boots on the ground from own ports in the Red Sea. For 30 years it has been dependent on its neighbors Djibouti and Berbera for access to ports and international shipping routes.

Services from both ports have come to costing two million USD per day for transit. This is said almost a fifth of Ethiopia’s foreign trade value.

Academics and politicians assert that, “There is no doubt that Ethiopia’s lack of direct access to the sea has constrained its ability to cater for its large population and hindered economic growth and development.”

Ethiopian Finance Minister, Ahmed Shide has recently stated factors challenging landlocked Ethiopia, “Local import-export firms in landlocked Ethiopia face serious challenges that affect competitiveness in the international trade including poor trade and logistics. Shipping costs and costs of transit of goods from port to mainland are burdens. High port service and transit transportation costs are affecting landlocked developing countries’ competitiveness.”

It is crystal clear that the challenges resulted from being land locked are the greatest impediment to the country’s trade competitiveness, equitable access to global markets and overall welfare of people.

For Ethiopia, therefore, sustaining out of access to a sea outlet is tantamount to further worthening the national growth as well as deteriorating the life of its over 120 million populations.

The political repercussion of being landlocked is also a great loss for Ethiopia, a country historically dominant in the Red Sea region, which has limited Ethiopia’s geostrategic options in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Nowadays, the issue alternative sea outlet has become viral; high level politicians explain that Ethiopia has the legitimate right to reconnect with the territorial isolation of the country to the Red Sea applying international principles and through win-win approaches.

During all the ups and downs, regaining of  a sea outlet which provides Ethiopia direct access to the Red Sea and beyond has continued to be hot agenda of citizens in the country.

In his recently briefing to the parliament, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) specified: “The Nile and Red Sea determine Ethiopia’s future. They will contribute either to its development or demise. We’re not insisting on Massawa or Assab specifically. What we seek is an accessible gateway.”

He also indicated, “The Red Sea and the Nile are intimately linked to Ethiopia, serving as the pillars that could either propel the country’s progress or lead to its demise.”

Going forward then Ethiopia clearly says there are several options for peaceful access to a sea outlet so that the new scenario can have a positive economic and geopolitical impacts not only in Ethiopia but across the region. However, the give and take approach is what many consider beneficial to all parties, and the engagement of all respected actors in the horn of Africa region would be a plus.

On top of this, making advantage of some international rules of general customary law related to access to the sea by landlocked states, which are binding upon all states in the international community is a wise choice. Reference to rules set by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and others will be paramount. The ICJ, for instance, states that general or customary law rules and obligations by their very nature, must have equal force for all members of the international community. 

Moreover, UN’s 1982 convention- Access to and From the Sea and Freedom of Transit Rights of Landlocked States Under UN- would pave the way to Ethiopia’s and other landlocked states’ quest to access to the sea.