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Somalia: Farmajo's meeting with Somaliland leader brokered by Ethiopian PM

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed organized an unprecedented meeting between Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi, Villa Somalia has confirmed, without giving more details.

Tuesday's meeting came amid a backdrop of a simmering political crisis in Somalia, which has seen a fallout between the federal government and federal states over key national issues, including electoral law, constitutional making process and sharing of natural resources.

President Farmajo had visited Ethiopia for African Union [AU] meeting, which focused on "silencing guns" theme, amid ongoing internal conflicts within the continent.

Bihi, the leader of breakaway Somaliland, had never met Farmajo, despite the two leaders assuming office in 2017. He was also in Ethiopia for state functions, although Somaliland is yet to be recognized.

Abdinur Mohamed, director of Communications at the office of Somali president has confirmed the rare meeting on Tuesday, crediting Abiy Ahmed, the Nobel Peace winner for organizing it in Addis Ababa.

No communique to be released

He said: “It was behind closed doors and no communique is being released. It was an ice-breaking one."

The Ethiopian government is also yet to issue a statement over the meeting, which happened at the sidelines of the Africa Union meeting, AP reported.

The Turkish government, which has come out as Somalia's biggest development partner, has been brokering meetings between the two parties since 2015.

Although Somaliland declared her independence in 1991, it's yet to be recognized by the international community.

But despite the squabbles, Somalia has often maintained that Somaliland remains its undisputed territory, further straining the relationship between Mogadishu and Hargeisa.

No specific agenda discussed

Even though the meeting was hastily convened by Dr. Abiy, it remained brief and its details were scanty, multiple sources confined to Garowe Online, Wednesday.

While it would have been expected that the agenda for the meeting was in place, a source claimed that "there was no specific agenda" because the meeting was sort of "impromptu".

According to another source, "no prior arrangements were made for the meeting and one party was actually given a short notice".

Dr. Abiy is projecting himself as a mediator, given his roles in restoring bilateral relationship with Eritrea, which ostensibly gifted him the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Tuesday's meeting could be the start of a long journey in reconciling two parties, where Ethiopia has been directly dragged to the current quagmire between FGS and federal states.

Somaliland's long journey to be a republic

After breakaway in 1991 over frequent conflicts in Somalia, Hargeisa has maintained its own independent government, currency and security system, AP added.

The administration has however faced her own internal challenges, including alleged violation of human rights and frequent brutal executions of critics.

Also, political parties associated with Somalia have also faced backlash in Hargeisa, often facing state crackdown from authorities.

In fact, three-party officials from the Waddani party were arrested in November last year, attracting international condemnation.

Bihi, probable winner in the latest encounter

But the meeting at Ethiopian capital is a big boost to Somaliland's quest for recognition, which it has not been forthcoming for three decades.

Abdisalam Mohamud Salwe, a political analyst and former Chief of Staff at the Office of the Somali Prime Minister, believes Ethiopian trip worked in Bihi's favour.

According to him, the circumstances behind the meeting could be informed by a "hidden agenda" given Somalia's policies in the Horn of Africa.

He said: "President Muse Bihi appears to be returning to Somaliland with a diplomatic victory."

While arriving at Ethiopia, Mohamud said, Bihi received high level welcome in terms of protocol, given that the two were received as two heads of states by Ethiopian officials in Addis Ababa.

Why unity talks failed

Even with spirited efforts to unite the two parties, the hurdle has often derailed them, with Mogadishu of accusing Hargeisa of not "showing seriousness".

But Somaliland leaders have often dismissed the allegations and insisted that their sovereignty is non-negotiable, blaming Mogadishu of using negotiators from Hargeisa.

Also, the role of ambassador Abdirahman Hussein, the son-in-law to Siad Barre, had been facing resistance from Somaliland, over his alleged role in "massacre" during the dictatorial regime that was overthrown in 1991.

However, Abdirahman was fired by Villa Somalia has since fired him from peace talks, effectively ending the stalemate and giving life to future talks.

Since taking office in 2018, Ethiopia’s leader has worked to achieve a number of diplomatic breakthroughs in the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region.


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