There’s very little coverage of Ethiopia in U.S. media, although Star Alliance member Ethiopian Airlines suffered one of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that grounded the Boeing jet for two years. In 2014 one of their co-pilots hijacked a flight. And in 2020 ground staff in Houston delayed an Ethiopian flight in order to scalp tickets.
Yet the airline, and even the country, maintain a reasonably good reputation here. Ethiopian is even looking at adding a new U.S. destination. The contenders are Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Montreal
At the same time, the country is Ethiopia is fighting a civil war. And they are targeting civilians in its Amhara region with drone strikes, even firing on an ambulance as it engages in a war with rebels there.
Though critics complain of “collective punishment” there are no protests for a cease fire. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and millions have become refugees, since 2019.The Tigray region is facing a catastrophe “comparable to the famine in 1984-85 that prompted the global fundraising music event Live Aid” yet this time around Ethiopia isn’t becoming ‘the current thing.’
The nation of Ethiopia has signed an agreement with Somaliland for access to the Red Sea in exchange for an equity stake in Ethiopian Airlines. That wasn’t on my bingo card for the start of 2024, although in the fall Ethiopia had engaged in belligerent threats to back up their negotiations.
The MoU will enable Ethiopia to lease access to the Red Sea from Somaliland to use as a military base and for commercial purposes for 50 years, Hussein said. Ethiopia can also build infrastructure and a corridor, he said at a briefing on Monday in the capital Addis Ababa attended by Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi.
…The Horn of Africa nation lost direct access to the sea in 1993, when Eritrea gained independence after a three-decade war. Its main trade route now runs along roads and a railway that link the capital, Addis Ababa, to a port in Djibouti, one of five neighbors with coastlines that include Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya.
Merely doing a deal with Somaliland is significant in its own right, and the government there (which is recognized by virtually no nation other than Taiwan), is significant.
In 2007, economist Peter Leeson looked at the data coming out of Somalia and found evidence that the government’s collapse there actually made things better for the people. It wasn’t great! But it wasn’t as bad as conditions under the previous corrupt government. Anarchy isn’t always worse than government.
There remains two different Somalias – the Federal Republic of Somalia which receives international recognition, and the separate, independent and self-declared Republic of Somaliland. The former faces massive instability, while Somaliland has actually created functioning institutions, security, and improved economic conditions.
- Somalia is one of the world’s great messes, and the government has long faced challenges exerting authority beyond Mogadishu or dealing with militant groups and organized crime (that is, organized crime where the criminals aren’t the government).
- Somaliland has been the most stable area of the Horn of Africa, despite lacking international recognition as an independent state. HoweverHargeisa faced some of its greatest challenges in 2023, stemming from an election dispute that led to clashes between security forces and protestors (though a deal was struck between government and opposition to ease tensions).
Ethiopia hasn’t formally recognized Somaliland but maintains positive relations overall. Doing a deal with Somaliland that exchanges a stake in its national carrier is a significant milestone.