Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has agreed to host an extraordinary meeting aimed at deescalating tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia. The rise in tensions follows a contested deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland. Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in his capacity as IGAD chairperson, has summoned an extraordinary summit in Kampala following consultations with President Museveni. The summit, slated for January 18, 2024, will focus on the ongoing situation between Ethiopia and Somalia and the war in Sudan.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country trade bloc in Africa, includes Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Eritrea. The tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia stem from a memorandum of understanding signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi, granting Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera and a leased military base.
The contested deal involves Somaliland leasing 20km of its coast to land-locked Ethiopia for 50 years, intending to establish a naval base and a commercial port. Somaliland, a former British protectorate, declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but lacks international recognition. The agreement has raised concerns about regional stability, with Somalia protesting and recalling its ambassador to Ethiopia, describing it as a blatant attack on its sovereignty.
Efforts for international recognition of Somaliland’s independence claim have faced challenges, as the European Union, the US, the Arab League, and Egypt back Somalia’s sovereignty. The EU emphasized the importance of respecting Somalia’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, considering it crucial for the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa region.
IGAD Executive Secretary Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu urged collaboration between Somalia and Ethiopia, recognizing the potential implications for regional stability. China also called for the respect of Somalia’s territorial integrity following the maritime accord between Ethiopia and Somaliland, contributing to heightened tensions in the region.
The summit in Kampala aims to address these escalating tensions and find diplomatic solutions to the complex issues at hand. Official invitations will be extended to the African Union (AU) and international partners through diplomatic channels, signifying the importance of broader collaboration in resolving the Ethiopia-Somalia dispute.