Africa Union dodges the bullet on Ethiopia-Somalia tensions

The African Union has made no significant progress on resolving the Somalia-Ethiopia dispute, a UN official said on Monday, reflecting the sensibilities the continental body has had to navigate around disputes between member states.

At a session of the UN Security Council on the situation in Somalia, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) to Somalia Catriona Laing expressed disappointment that the recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa skirted around the issue. It chose to focus instead on the theme of the year on education, science and innovation, even though issues of peace and security including tensions between member states were discussed in passing.

The point raised by Ms Laing is centred on new development involving a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on January 1 this year between Ethiopia and Somaliland, a breakaway region Somalia considers its territory.

Somalia vehemently opposed the MoU and labelled it as nil and void.

Speaking alongside Souef Mohamed El-Amine, the Representative of the African Union Commission chairperson, Ms Laing stressed that the tension created by the MoU conflicts with recent noteworthy gains by Somalia, including its admission to the East African Community and reaching the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It also secured the lifting of an arms embargo and most recently the endorsement of the African Union (AU) Executive Council for a seat on the Security Council in 2025-26.


The bilateral understanding, whose content remains vague, supposedly offers landlocked Ethiopia access to the sea via a lease of a 20km coastal strip in Somaliland in return for political and economic benefits.

Ms Laing underlined a significant setback likely to be created if the Ethiopia-Somalia tension is not resolved.

“The full details of the MoU are not available, but public pronouncements have generated strong hostile public reactions in Somalia,” the UN top officer in Somalia stated.
She added, “It is also worrying to see Al-Shabaab exploiting this situation as a tool for recruitment.”

Calls to de-escalate

Other diplomats at the UN Security Council also expressed their concerns.

The United Kingdom called for calm and dialogue to de-escalate the situation in Somalia.

UK Ambassador James Kariuki, at the UN Security Council meeting on Somalia, stated, “As we have said previously, the United Kingdom reaffirms its support for Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The UK is a close friend and longstanding partner to both Somalia and Ethiopia, and we are continuing to engage with both governments directly,” he remarked, adding that the UK supports mediation efforts, including the work of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and the AU.

The Head of Somalia Mission, Abukar Dahir Osman, stalwartly censured Ethiopia’s engagement with Somaliland, especially its intention to set up a naval base.

“Ethiopia’s establishment of a military base in Somalia constitutes a clear violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Mr Osman.

“By (Ethiopia) unilaterally altering the borders of Somalia, the Ethiopian Government is fuelling a cycle of distrust and hostility between the Somali and Ethiopian people,” he added.

Major international organisations, including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), League of Arab States, Non-aligned Countries, and the European Union, have all voiced respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Source:  The East African

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