Red Sea: Ethiopia “will not assert its interests through war”, assures Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopia has no intention of invading another country and “will never assert its interests through war”, assured its Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday, a few days after a speech that raised concerns about Addis Ababa’s possible claims to the Red Sea.
In a televised speech on October 13, Mr. Abiy said that “Ethiopia’s existence as a nation is linked to the Red Sea”, that his country needed a port, and that “peace” in the region depended on “balanced mutual sharing” between landlocked Ethiopia and its neighbors.
The second most populous country in Africa, with around 120 million inhabitants, Ethiopia has no direct access to the Red Sea, one of the world’s major trade crossroads, unlike its neighbors Eritrea and Djibouti.
Although he said he had “no wish to interfere in the affairs” of other countries and wanted to “peacefully” assert his demand for a port on the Red Sea, Mr. Abiy’s speech worried some observers, particularly in a context of apparent tensions with neighboring Eritrea.
“Ethiopia has never invaded any country and will not do so in the future,” assured Mr. Abiy in a speech delivered on Thursday in central Addis Ababa, on the occasion of the “Defense Forces Day” celebrated every year.
“Our recent request for access to the sea has raised fears that Ethiopia is leading an invasion. I want to assure you that Ethiopia will not assert its interests through war”, continued the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
Abiy Ahmed’s rapprochement with Eritrea earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, but his aura then seriously faded when he sent the federal army to quell the rebellious authorities of the northern region of Tigray. The war in Tigray, which lasted from November 2020 to November 2022, claimed several hundred thousand lives.
Modern Ethiopia briefly had access to the Red Sea when it gradually annexed Eritrea, a former Italian colony, in the 1950s.
It has lost this access since a conflict between the two countries between 1998 and 2000, a few years after Eritrea became independent in 1993, and Ethiopia now depends on the port of Djibouti for its exports and imports.