African Union Selects Obasanjo to Facilitate Ethiopia-Somalia Negotiations

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The African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has sent former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to facilitate negotiations in an attempt to stop the rapidly rising hostilities between Ethiopia and Somalia from degenerating into a full-scale war.

The tension in relations between Ethiopia and Somalia arose after Somaliland signed an agreement with Ethiopia on January 1, 2024, granting the latter control over a maritime port and a military base on the Red Sea.

Somalia announced last week that it was prepared to go to war.

The two nations have a history of conflict. In 1977, they fought the Ogaden War over a disputed territory, and in 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia as part of the fight against terrorism. The Ethiopian-Somali conflict is a territorial and political dispute that has its roots in the late 1940s, when the Somali-inhabited Ogaden region was handed back to Ethiopia by the British.

Somaliland hopes to gain recognition as an independent state, which it declared in 1991, and hopes to do so by granting Ethiopia access to its territory.

As the two nations engage in a geopolitical conflict, Obasanjo faces an overwhelming challenge.

Due to the conflict, authorities in Mogadishu on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, turned away an Ethiopian Airlines flight, stating that it did not have the necessary authorization to enter the Somali airspace. The aircraft was reportedly travelling to Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a breakaway region, with a high-ranking Ethiopian delegation on board.

The PSC has since stated that it “called on the two countries to adhere to the fundamental principles of the AU and international law and draw inspiration from them in their bilateral and international relations.”

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but it is not recognised as an independent state by the African Union (AU) or the United Nations. The AU considers Somaliland a province of Somalia.

In addition to selecting Obasanjo, the PSC has cautioned against foreign meddling in the case. On the other hand, Somalia has stated that it will not hold talks with Ethiopia unless the latter revokes the deal it made with Somaliland on January 1.

According to the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “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.”

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