The African Union’s Peace and Security Council has sent Nigerian ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful solution to the present crisis between Ethiopia and Somalia, as tensions threaten to boil over into war.
The present crisis began when Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ on January 1st, which grants Ethiopia access to the Somaliland port of Berbera, where they will establish both a naval military base, as well as a commercial port on 20km of coastline.
In exchange, Ethiopia is to recognize Somaliland’s independence, and eventually establish official ties. While Somaliland has operated independently since 1991, they have thus far gone unrecognized, with the African Union (AU) official policy opposing the creation of states based upon former colonial borders. Somaliland’s borders are based upon the former British colonial border, whereas Somalia itself is a previous Italian colony.
Attempts at Mediation
While the African Union has “called on the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Federal Republic of Somalia to adhere to the fundamental principles of the AU and international law and draw inspiration from them in their bilateral and international relations”, President Obasanjo has a difficult job ahead of him as Somalia has shown very little willingness to negotiate with Ethiopia on the matter. Last week, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud stated that Somali’s should “prepare for the defence of our homeland”, and the Guardian quoted a Somali Presidential advisor as as saying “we are ready for a war if Abiy wants a war”, Abiy being Abiy Ahmed the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
Yesterday Somalia’s foreign ministry released a statement saying that there was “no room for mediation unless Ethiopia corrects this by retracting the illegal MOU”, essentially rejecting any attempts at mediation for the crisis. Somalia demands that Ethiopia withdraw from the deal completely, and Ethiopia shows no signs of backing down on the deal, making any mediation attempts rather difficult.
The AU, EU, Arab League, UN, IGAD, and several other international entities have condemned the deal and urged respect for Somalia’s sovereignty.