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Somalia: Farmajo under fire from ex-presidents over planned visit to Somaliland

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online
Hassan Sheikh Mohamed [L] and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [R] speaking jointly to the reporters in Mogadishu [File photo]

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's opposition bigwigs have taken a swipe at President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo yet again, over his planned visit to Somaliland, which almost caused cracks in the Horn of Africa.

Farmajo, who is facing a tough re-election bid ahead of the upcoming elections, is keen to reconcile with the breakaway northern region, with the assistance of Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy.

Already, Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide has visited Hargeisa over the proposed joint trip by Farmajo and Abiy, although details about his engagement with Somaliland authorities remain scanty.

But Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former President of Somalia and leader of Forum for National Parties [FNP], on Friday questioned the trip, wondering why dialogue was not instituted.

He said: "The idea of the trip is okay but why would you fasten everything without dialogue? He should have first held negotiations before talking about the trip."

Prior negotiations, he said, would have unlocked expected predicaments given the historical differences between the two parties.

Although secessionist Somaliland has been independent since 1991, Somalia has always recognized it as part of its territory, even with minimal interactions.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, another former president, welcomed Farmajo's move to apologize to Somaliland, but termed the apology "incomplete".

"There was always a need to apologize to Somaliland but the President should have made it conclusive. It should have been more than what we saw," he noted.

The two leaders have reunited in a bid to topple Farmajo's administration ahead of polls, and have been consistent critics of Mogadishu administration.

In a press conference, Farmajo tendered an apology to Somaliland over atrocities committed by the military regime of Siad Barre, who was ousted in 1991 after a civil war.

For the first time since their victory, Farmajo and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi met in Addis Ababa in a meeting that was brokered by Mr. Ahmed Abiy.

But in an address to Somaliland parliament last week, Bihi accepted the apology adding that "for Farmajo's visit, it's not going to happen any time soon."

The idea of Farmajo visiting Hargeisa comes at the time a committee to reconcile the two regions is struggling to strike a common ground for reconciliation.

For three years, talks to have the two regions reaching a consensus have been in place, with Ankara and Qatar pulling strings in Mogadishu, reports indicate.