In an effort to avert the escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has deployed former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to engage in diplomatic negotiations.
The heightened strain between the two neighboring nations emerged following the signing of an agreement on January 1st between the secessionist region of Somaliland and Ethiopia.
The agreement granted Ethiopia control over a maritime port and a military base on the Red Sea, leading to a perilous situation.
Somalia in response, declared its preparedness for war. This latest rift adds to a history of conflicts between the two countries, including territorial disputes in 1977 and Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006 as part of the fight against terrorism.
Somaliland’s decision to grant Ethiopia access to its territory is driven by a desire to gain recognition as an independent state—a claim it has asserted since breaking away from the voluntary union with Somalia in 1991.
Obasanjo faces a formidable challenge as he navigates the delicate geopolitical dance between Ethiopia and Somalia. Recent events include Somalia rejecting an Ethiopian flight bound for Somaliland last Wednesday, carrying representatives of the Ethiopian government.
The PSC has emphasized the importance of adherence to fundamental principles of the African Union and international law in bilateral and international relations between Ethiopia and Somalia. The African Union officially considers Somaliland a province of Somalia.
While appointing Obasanjo for negotiation, the PSC has also cautioned against external interference. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convened an extraordinary summit in Kampala, Uganda, on Thursday to address the issue. However, Somalia has declared its unwillingness to engage in discussions with Ethiopia unless the latter reverses the contested agreement with Somaliland.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia have been violated by Ethiopia when it signed an illegal agreement with the northern region [the administration of Somaliland] of Somalia. That is why there is no room for mediation unless Ethiopia reverses its illegal agreement and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia,” stated the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs.