President Ismail Omar Guelleh wants to see heads of state meet in Kampala January 18
Chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh has called for an extraordinary session to discuss recent events involving Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as Sudan, sources disclosed to The Reporter.
The call to all eight IGAD members makes Djibouti the first entity to intervene officially in the growing tensions between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu over a lease agreement in breakaway Somaliland.
An MoU signed between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and Somaliland President Muse Bihi proposes Ethiopia leases a 20 kilometer stretch on the Somaliland coast for a commercial port facility and a military base, in exchange for Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state.
The signing on New Year’s Day evoked fury in Mogadishu, with the Somali government condemning what it calls a “clear violation” of Somalia’s sovereignty.
The AU and IGAD, among others, have called for a dialogue as tensions grow but nobody had stepped forward to create a platform for dialogue until now.
Djibouti has called for an extraordinary summit of IGAD heads of states and governments scheduled for January 18, 2024, well-placed sources at the IGAD Secretariat told The Reporter.
The Secretariat, led by Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), former Ethiopian Foreign Minister, will play a facilitatory role in the summit, according to the source.
“It is actually the [proposal for a] military base that has created havoc, because it would be in a place that isn’t a sovereign country,” said the source, explaining IGAD’s main concerns. “Other countries’ military bases in the region are located in sovereign states.”
Executive-Secretary Workneh last week expressed his “deep concern regarding recent developments in relations between Ethiopia and Somalia” and said he is “diligently monitoring the situation.”
The Somali government responded to his statement with a demand for an apology and immediate withdrawal, alleging bias. Senior Ethiopian government officials were also displeased with IGAD, sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed The Reporter last week.
Several governments have expressed their support to Somalia in the span of the 12 days since the MoU was signed.
Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi wasted no time in placing a phone call to his Somali counterpart, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and sending a delegation to Mogadishu. He has reportedly even invited President Mohamud to Cairo for further talks.
Tensions in the region rose even further as the Somali head of state visited Asmara for talks with President Isaias Afwerki on January 8, 2024. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry landed in the Eritrean capital on January 12, 2024.
Ethiopia’s largest development and trade partner, China, has also taken a stance against the agreement, stating that “Somaliland is part of Somalia.”
It is in the midst of this pressure that Guelleh has called for a meeting in Kampala.
It is not yet confirmed whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) will take part in the IGAD summit, according to the source.
The Ethiopian government has stated its belief that the agreement with Somaliland “in no way violates international law nor infringes on another country’s sovereignty.”
“Similar agreements have been made by others in the region. There is nothing unique in what Ethiopia has done with Somaliland,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.