Kampala Prepares for IGAD Summit on Ethiopia-Somalia Row

Signing ceremony of the treaty of accession by the Federal Republic of Somalia into EAC @State House Entebbe 05 (1)
Signing ceremony of the treaty of accession by the Federal Republic of Somalia into EAC at State House Entebbe
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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has agreed to host an extraordinary meeting aimed at deescalating tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia. The rising discord stems from a contested deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland, prompting the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to convene an urgent summit in Kampala on January 18, 2024.

The call for this extraordinary meeting follows consultations between IGAD chairperson Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh and President Museveni. The Djibouti Foreign Affairs Ministry and International Cooperation issued a letter on January 11, 2024, addressed to IGAD member states and the IGAD Secretariat, confirming Guelleh’s summons for the summit.

IGAD, headquartered in Djibouti City, comprises eight member countries: Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Eritrea. The summit will primarily focus on the ongoing tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as the war in Sudan.

The genesis of the tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia traces back to a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi. The MOU grants Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera and a leased military base. Under this agreement, Somaliland has leased 20km of its coast to landlocked Ethiopia for 50 years.

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Despite Ethiopia’s insistence that the deal with Somaliland adheres to legal standards, Somalia vehemently protested, accusing Ethiopia of a blatant attack on its sovereignty. The situation escalated further as hundreds of people in Mogadishu demonstrated against the pact that gives Ethiopia sought-after access to the Red Sea.

Efforts by Somaliland to gain international recognition for its independence claim through this agreement faced resistance. The European Union, the United States, the Arab League, Egypt, and China all urged respect for Somalia’s sovereignty and emphasized the importance of regional peace and stability.

IGAD’s executive secretary, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, previously appealed for collaboration between Somalia and Ethiopia in light of the contested deal. The organization continues to monitor the situation diligently, recognizing the potential implications for regional stability.

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