The relation between Ethiopia and Somalia has not been a healthy one. In the recent historical period, one major and one lesser war were fought between the two countries. The empty dream of the so-called "Greater Somalia", an expansionist policy, had brought to Somalia nothing but hostility and conflicts with all its neighbors, especially Ethiopia. Moreover, Somalia had always allied with all groups and countries it believed were anti-Ethiopian and had disturbed Ethiopia's peace. On the other hand, Ethiopian Somalis had resisted the oppressive system in Ethiopia. Related to this, Somalia had succeeded in mobilizing a large number of Ethiopian Somalis as allays in its attempt to execute its expansionist policy. In this regard Ethiopia has been exposed to threats emanating from Somalia and other quarters.
Ethiopia, for its part, rather than responding to the threat by respecting the right of Ethiopian Somalis and by fostering brotherhood between the peoples of Ethiopia, so Ethiopian Somalis could live in voluntary unity with their other fellow Ethiopians, resorted to dismantling Somalia to the extent possible. The policy was to respond to Somali aggression by taking the war to Somalia and, along the way, aggravating the contradiction between the Somali clans.
The situation has now fundamentally changed. The "Greater Somalia" ideology has been discredited. It is now over ten years since Somalia has become stateless. On the other hand, in Ethiopia, a constitution in which peoples' rights are guaranteed is being implemented. Ethiopian Somalis are living in brotherhood and voluntary unity with other Ethiopians in a newly defined, inclusive Ethiopian identity. Together with other Ethiopians, Ethio-Somalis are, in the spirit of equality, democracy, development and an Ethiopian identity, resting on strong foundations and contributing to the building of the country. Ethiopia's vulnerability to the "Greater Somalia" ideology has been greatly diminished.
On the other hand, the disintegration of Somalia has in itself brought ever-growing danger. The crisis in Somalia has allowed religious extremism to take hold. Somalia has become a haven and conduit for terrorists and extremists. Anti-peace elements are using the country as a base and place of transit in order to threaten Ethiopia's peace. Somalia's disintegration has brought danger to the peace in our country.
b) Significance of the relations
There is no condition whereby Somalia could contribute as a source of investment and financial development or as a significant market for Ethiopia. After a process of some length, followed by peace and stability in Somalia, there is the chance that it could become a significant market, but this is difficult to imagine in the short and medium term. Regarding natural resources, all the big rivers in Somalia flow from Ethiopia. The irrigation schemes in Somalia which effectively served the people are in a poor state. On the other hand, as our country steps up its development, we will have to dam the rivers for irrigation purposes. The harnessing of rivers in Ethiopia can help Somalia resist floods, and so the benefit would be mutual. But on the other hand, these rivers could be used in Ethiopia - mainly in the Somali region - for development purposes. This could create a minor conflict but the problem can be tackled by the principle of give and take in a way that takes into account the national interests of the two countries.
As can be understood from the above, in the short and medium terms, Somalia does not have a positive or negative influence of note in the development of our country. And yet, in Somalia there are numerous ports that can provide services to Ethiopia. Starting from the port of Zeila which gave services to Ethiopia during its long history, all the way to Kismayo, there are no less than seven ports in Somalia that can be used by different parts of our country. These possibilities could significantly contribute to our development, but due to the "Greater Somalia"-driven conflict and national oppression in Ethiopia, they were never seriously considered (not to forget that Ethiopia had ports of its own). The current collapse of the state in Somalia makes it unrealistic to think of using the ports at the present time.
Even if the chances to use the ports were to arise, and though that would increase Somalia's relevance to our development, one cannot see a positive role that Somalia can play at this time. On the negative side, it is worth noting that the disintegration of Somalia has posed dangers for peace and stability in Ethiopia. This situation has spoilt the image of our sub-region, and the Horn is now perceived as an area of conflict. Our chances to attract investment have been reduced and the "Somalia effect" has contributed to the uncertainty about regional peace and the lack of economic linkages between the two countries.