Ethiopia’s plan to build Red Sea military bases fuels tension with Egypt
Amid the stalled negotiations with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia is expressing its intention to build military bases in the Red Sea.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Ahmed Gomaa
@@AhmedGomaa252
TOPICS COVERED
Defense/Security cooperation
Water Issues
June 9, 2021
CAIRO — Ethiopia recently made fiery remarks that further fueled tensions with Egypt over the controversial dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.
On June 2, Dina Mufti, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said his country is determined to build military bases in the Red Sea. Speaking at a press conference held in Addis Ababa, he added, “Various countries (which he did not name) are showing an interest in controlling the Red Sea region by establishing more military bases than ever before.”
Mufti said his country is planning to build military bases at a time when “worrying” changes are happening in the Horn of Africa.
This comes as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have not made any progress in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks, the last round of which was held in January.
Although Cairo has not made any official comments on Mufti’s statements, the latter have ignited criticism in the local media.
In this vein, Maj. Gen. Mohamed al-Shahawy, adviser to the army's Command and Staff College, told Al-Monitor, “Ethiopia is a landlocked country, which means that it does not have direct access to the Red Sea. The repeated statements (about the Red Sea) are designed to preoccupy Ethiopia’s public opinion, cover up for the [Ethiopian] economic crisis and divert attention from the Tigray war.”
After Eritrea gained independence in 1911 after three decades of war with Ethiopia, Addis Ababa lost direct access to the Red Sea.
"Talk about setting up Ethiopian military bases in the Red Sea comes in response to the military agreements Egypt signed with a number of Nile Basin countries and the joint military exercises conducted with Sudan recently," Shahawy said.
He believes these military agreements Egypt signed would force Ethiopia to sign a binding and legal agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.
Egypt signed a number of military agreements with African countries, especially those close to the Nile Basin region and most recently a defense cooperation agreement signed on May 26 with Kenya.
In March, Egypt signed a defense agreement with Sudan; it signed a memorandum of understanding on the exchange of intel with Uganda in April. Also, the Egyptian and Burundian militaries signed in the same month a military cooperation agreement focusing on training and joint exercises.
Hani Raslan, head of the Nile Basin Studies Unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “The Ethiopian officials reiterate every now and then their intention to establish military bases (in the region) after they decided to re-establish the Ethiopian navy, which necessitates a seaport and a military naval base.”
In June 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged to rebuild the country’s navy that was dissolved in 1996.
During French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Addis Ababa in March 2019, the two countries signed a defense cooperation agreement to develop the Ethiopian navy and train Ethiopian sailors in France.
Raslan believes “an understanding with a country bordering the Red Sea, including Eritrea, is required in order for Ethiopia to build a military base in the Red Sea.”
In December 2019, Ethiopia’s Capital magazine revealed an agreement to establish an Ethiopian naval base in Djibouti, after previous proposals to build it in Sudan or Eritrea allegedly fell through.
Mohammad Hassan, an expert focusing on military affairs at the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “The timing of the Ethiopian statements on the military base carries several indications. Ethiopian generals are well aware that Ethiopia is a landlocked country." He added, "Egypt succeeded in politically encircling Ethiopia from all axes by signing security, military and economic cooperation agreements with Sudan, Djibouti, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. As a result, Addis Ababa was isolated from its regional surroundings in the search for a way out of this crisis.”
Shahawy said Egypt insists on its principle that the Nile waters are a red line and that it is a life or death matter regardless of the circumstances.
MORE FROM AHMED GOMAA
Is China ready to intervene in Nile dam crisis?
Ahmed Gomaa | Egypt | Jul 2, 2021
Egypt sentences two TikTok activists to jail
Ahmed Gomaa | Egypt | Jun 29, 2021
Egypt heads to South Sudan amid stalled Nile dam dispute
Ahmed Gomaa | Egypt | Jun 26, 2021
POPULAR ARTICLES
4,000-year-old city discovered in Iraq
Adnan Abu Zeed | Iraq | Jul 9, 2021
Saudi Arabia’s race for Gulf economic leadership takes to the sky
Sebastian Castelier | Gulf | Jul 13, 2021
Ancient fossilized fish found in Egypt that survived in hot waters
Alaa Omran | Culture | Jun 16, 2021
Will Turkey use Syrian mercenaries in Kabul?
Fehim Tastekin | Turkey | Jul 12, 2021
Has Israel’s army become too small?
Ben Caspit | Israel | Jul 13, 2021
RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
Actress' decision to quit stage draws fierce backlash from liberals
Shahira Amin | Egypt | Jul 24, 2021
How water has become a flashpoint in the Middle East
Week in Review | Egypt | Jul 23, 2021
Egypt weighs next steps after Ethiopia completes second filling of Nile Dam
Baher al-Kady | Egypt | Jul 23, 2021
Egypt to document cinematic heritage
A correspondent in Egypt | Egypt | Jul 22, 2021
RECENT PODCASTS
Ali Hashem on what to expect from Ebrahim Raisi and the rise of the Hezbollahis in Iran
Major General Noam Tibon: IDF needs more boots on the ground 
South Asia security expert Ayesha Siddiqa says Turkey is a natural fit for Afghanistan 
Ambassador Haim Koren: Bennett seeks to boost Israel’s ties with Jordan 
Israel’s Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai calls for renewing dialogue with American Jews 
NEWSLETTERS
Subscribe
© 2021 Al-Monitor, LLC. All rights reserved.