The PM’s Sea Outlet Fiasco: Diplomatic, Legal, Economic and War Implications

Yonas Biru (The Author)
Yonas Biru, PhD 

It is not without reason one American congressman called PM Abiy a “Boy King.” His  presentation on acquiring a sea outlet is a telling example. It warrants noting that the PM  agenda is not restricted to seeking access to a sea port. He is seeking land with access to sea  ports. Emphasis is on the land. Bottom line: Ethiopia needs to have its own sea outlet where it  can have a Navy and fishing rights. 

Ethiopia, the PM said, must find a country that will willfully give her a swath of land in  exchange for something. Least war is inevitable. Let us say for the sake of argument his  request is valid for the reasons he explained. He has four options: diplomatic, legal, economic, or war. Let us examine each of them. Separately. 

The Diplomatic Path 

The first task for the PM was to get the diplomatic endeavor right – both in terms of diplomatic  protocol and public relations. This required approaching the countries in consideration in secret, explaining his views and working out a mutually beneficial agreement. The two nations  can then agree on how and when to bring the agreement to their people. The PM’s decision  to unilaterally announce such a sensitive political agenda is the work of a boy king, not a  leader of 120 million people. 

Was there a diplomatic option? I see land swap as a viable option. Assab is of little use for  Eritrea. Land swap, for example Wolkait + a part of Gonder or Wolkait + a part of Tigray may  attract Eritrea. Having Wolkait will help them boost their agriculture and provide them with a  source of foreign exchange. In my opinion, Wolkait + part of Tigray makes more sense. Assab  can then be incorporated into Tigray. The thorny question is what will Gonder get, considering  its claim over Wolkait?  

The Legal Path to Nowhere 

Is there a legal means worthy of pursuing? The answer is a resounding “NO.” The PM’s  comparison of the Nile and Red Sea shows ignorance. International law for rivers flowing through  multiple countries is different from international laws governing sea costliness. The PM’s legal  analysis epitomizes the ignorance of a boy king. 

The Economic Proposal Does Not Add Up 

The economic እሰጥ አገባ (transaction) proposal is meaningless. The PM said Ethiopia does not  have money to pay for port services. I think he mentioned about $2 billion per year. If he did 

not, let us assume it costs Ethiopia about $2 billion per year now. Obviously, as Ethiopia grows, and its import-export volumes grow that will change. Let us assume in 15 years Ethiopia’s  import and export volumes double. This may require expanding the port. Obviously, this will  lead to a hefty increase in the cost of using the port. Let us say the cost goes to $3 billion or  $4 billion. The PM said Ethiopia would rather spend this money for its development endeavor.  It needs its own port to avoid paying annual payments. 

Let us look at it from the other countries’ point of view. Let us take Eritrea, for example.  Eritrea’s economic calculus will be different. Let us assume Eritrea will be open for economic  transactions if the price is right. Eritrea knows it can get $2 billion per year today and $3 billion to $4 billion per year in 15 years and even more as time passes.  

This is what Eritrea would get under the current arrangement by simply providing port service  without giving a swath of land to Ethiopia. If it is to hand over a large swath of land, its asking  price will increase astronomically. 

This means the share of the Ethiopian airlines must be large enough to compensate for the  land must be far more than the $2 billion it now collects annually, and the figure must increase  substantially in the future. 

The problem is the Ethiopian Airlines’ profit was $937 million in 2022. So, Ethiopia must find  more resources. It may have to include 100% of its telecommunication authority, and 100%  of its gold and coffee exports to generate the amount of revenue to compensate Eritrea.  

The PM’s economic proposal was a showcase of a humiliating ignorance of basic economic  transactions.  

Is War an Option? 

There is no legal path. The economic path does not add up and the boy king has already  botched the diplomatic option. The only thing left is the use of force. Currently, the PM and  his Field Marshal are getting their asses whipped by Fanno. War is not an option at this  juncture.  

The boy king is using the topic to divert national and international discussion about Fanno.  The ass kicking that he is getting in the Amhara tribal land is the reason behind his Wikipedia presentation about water. 

He is a cross between Mugabe and Idi Amin. He has a flare of brilliance like Robert Mugabe  and shares utter stupidity with His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor  Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas  and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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