Monday, May 20, 2024
News‘Top secret’ talks underway to mediate Ethiopia, Somalia on MoU saga

‘Top secret’ talks underway to mediate Ethiopia, Somalia on MoU saga

Presidents Ismail Omar Guelleh and William Ruto are facilitating “highly confidential” talks in Nairobi in a bid to find a way out for the impasse between Ethiopia and Somalia, sources at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) disclosed to The Reporter.

“The possible ways out haven’t been disclosed. We know both Guelleh and Ruto are trying to create a common ground for Ethiopian and Somali leaders. Prime Minister Abiy has been in Nairobi last month, and this week President Hassan Sheikh is also in Nairobi,” said the source, who spoke anonymously.

The source declined to specify the role IGAD is playing in the process.

Guelleh, who is serving as IGAD chairperson, was involved in efforts at mediation between Somaliland and Somalia before the former signed a contentious MoU with the Ethiopian government in January. Heralded by both signatories as “historic”, the deal proposes Ethiopia will lease a stretch on the Somaliland coast for commercial and naval purposes, in exchange for the recognition of Somaliland’s sovereignty.

Muse Bihi, president of Somaliland, and Redwan Hussien, then national security advisor to PM Abiy, had publicly stated plans to roll out a detailed implementation document for the deal within a month of signing the MoU. The document has yet to materialize.

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Mogadishu has fiercely opposed the deal, pleading its case to IGAD, the AU, and the Arab League and demanding Ethiopia rescind the agreement. The Somaliland government, meanwhile, has lodged a complaint with the ICJ accusing Somalia of acting as an obstacle in the breakaway region’s decades-long quest for recognition.

Reuter’s reports over the week indicate Kenya’s William Ruto is proposing a regional maritime treaty as a framework to resolve the dispute between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Kenya’s principal secretary for Foreign Affairs, Korir Sing’oei, told Reuters that “the treaty Kenya is proposing in consultation with Djibouti and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) would govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms.”

During his Eid holiday message to the nation on April 10, 2024, President Hassan Sheikh reiterated that Somalia will never compromise its territorial integrity and allow anyone to take an inch of its land.

Hassan Sheikh described the MoU as an act of annexation.

“We urge Ethiopia to respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. If they do not want us, we do not want them. We will not be intimidated or coerced into compromising our rights,” he said.

A week ago, Somalia expelled Ethiopian diplomats from Mogadishu.

However, Somaliland and Puntland have retained their Ethiopian consuls.

Analysts observe the fallouts between Somalia and breakaway territories Somaliland and Puntland are in favor of Ethiopia’s ambitions for sea access. Muse Bihi has repeatedly made statements reaffirming the MoU, and Hassan Sheikh is unable to move to normalize relations with Addis Ababa without backing from Somaliland and Puntland.

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