Somalia : On the controversial MoU, dialogue is the only option


EDITORIAL- Somalia and Ethiopia have not always been friends, but in the modern world, they tend to find themselves facing the same problems: terrorism, climate change, and poverty, all of which have forced them, in the past, to collaborate.

This is why the ongoing public altercation between the two countries is unfortunate and should stop. Of course, the bone of contention is the January 1 MoU signed controversially between Ethiopia and Somaliland, Somalia’s breakaway region that unilaterally declared independence some 32 years ago.

Since the MoU was announced, there has been bad blood between the two countries. On Saturday, it reached some sort of higher level when Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud claimed he had been barred from leaving his hotel for the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

There were varied narratives of what happened in Addis. Somalia’s version was that the President’s delegation was frustrated, and he was humiliated with a blockade to prevent him from reaching the venue of the summit, and hence stop him from giving a speech.

Ethiopia’s side said the delegation carried arms to the venue and had no clearance for that. Ideally, the security delegation should have provided a notice, at least 3 days before the summit, indicating the arms and people who carried them to guard the President. As is tradition, the presidential guards for any head of state attending the summit have always been admitted to the venue with their arms, albeit the number of weapons is always limited. So, from the outset, there was something sinister about this standoff.

The lesson we draw from this incident is that there need not be sideshows to embarrass each other. Countries often run into disputes, but it doesn’t mean they cannot resolve those issues. Ethiopia and Somalia should swallow their pride and acknowledge there is a problem.

We think the best way is to allow dialogue. The past six weeks have seen both sides enter grandstanding mode: Ethiopia saying it will proceed with the MoU while Somalia says it will not negotiate while the MoU stays.

Here is the reality: Ethiopia banked on the weaknesses in Somalia’s state structure to go for a controversial deal. It ostensibly offered to recognize Somaliland in exchange for the MoU. But Ethiopia also knew that path would be full of landmines. It knew Somalia would reject it because it has done so in the past. It knew the world would oppose the deal because the world has often followed the African Union policy on traditional state boundaries.

For Somalia, rejecting the MoU was expected. But what does it mean for the ultimate solution in Somaliland? This region has been trying to force its way out for the last three decades. This means Somalia must do something else to ensure this problem does not persist. And it was curious that while Mogadishu opened doors for new talks with Somaliland, an MoU arrived.

So how do they get out of the mess? First, we must allow the relevant international arena to help. Ethiopia opposed Somalia’s request to discuss the matter at the UN Security Council, and Addis Ababa argued the African Union was the right place to deal with the issue. So why did Ethiopia attempt to frustrate Somalia when it wanted to give the African audience its version of events? It may have been the politics. But we know those attempts rarely help. Instead, they raise sympathy for the humiliated side.

Well, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was eventually able to speak and accused Ethiopia of trying to dismember Somalia. Perhaps the biggest question everyone is asking Ethiopia is, what happened to the MoU in 2018 which was meant to develop four Somali ports and which was signed with Mogadishu? Either Ethiopia thinks Somalia cannot stand as one, or it is taking advantage of the fissures within the Somali government structure. We must embrace dialogue, not bullying.


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