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Djibouti denies confiscating food items destined to Ethiopia

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online
Djibouti-an foreign minister, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

Djibouti has distanced itself from allegations of interfering with Ethiopian traders importing food from the shores of the Red Sea, terming the reports "malicious and unfounded".

For decades, landlocked Ethiopia has been using Djibouti ports to import and export items, with their mutual cooperation solidly anchored in several bilateral agreements signed by previous governments.

Angry social media users accused Djibouti of "sabotage", with some calling for immediate action from Addis Ababa in form of possible retortions and reprisals, a move that temporarily reignited the dark past of the two nations.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed had not openly spoken about the brewing tensions between the two nations over trade. Ethiopia is one of the most rapidly growing nations in Africa.

But through Foreign Affairs minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti insisted that its bond with Ethiopia "cannot be shaken with fake news" being propagated, adding "there is no such a thing" at all.

"Djibouti has never prevented any Ethiopian importer from supplying the Ethiopian market on foodstuff. The news manipulation comes from the govt decision to ask Djiboutian exporters to give priority to our own market," he said in a tweet on Sunday.

The minister added: "This has no single implication whatsoever in the seamless movement of truck and train cargo through Djibouti and that belongs to Ethiopian business community."

Ethiopia depends on the goodwill of Djibouti and Eritrea to receive imports and at times, to export. In recent months, the mutual cooperation at the Horn of Africa has been strengthened, following Abiy's transformative leadership that was accompanied by a litany of radical reforms.

Mr. Ahmed, whose administration has since postponed August polls, won Nobel Peace Prize last year, ostensibly for his role in brokering a peace deal with Eritrea. He's also credited for expanding democratic space in Ethiopia.

And Mahamoud, a critical player in President Ismail Omar's regime, further observed that the strong relationship between the two countries will continue flourishing despite the unprecedented allegations.

"In times of hardship and ordeal, the two countries have always been tied together in a spirit of solidarity and unwavering support to each other. It will remain so," he added in a tweet.

Mohamed Idriss, the Djiboutian ambassador to Ethiopia, also dismissed the claims, terming the information "false and inappropriate". He insisted that the relationship between the two nations is "stable".

"Djibouti and Ethiopia have always shown clear goodwill and commitment to address whatever issue of common interest," he noted, further reinforcing the position by Djibouti administration.

The tiny Horn of Africa nation is battling with Kenya for a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat and has been robustly campaigning ahead of polls. The UN scheduled the polls for June 2020.

Both Djibouti and Ethiopia are grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, which has literally informed the necessity for enhanced food security strategies. The virus has infected close to 1.7 million people worldwide, reports indicate.

The two nations have recorded over 60 positive cases each, with Djibouti announcing the second death on Saturday. On the other hand, Ethiopia has declared the State of Emergency to combat the virus.

Previous Ethiopian regimes were considered combative and authoritarian, a reason why Addis Ababa had a strained relationship with most of its neighbors. But Ahmed has been more diplomatic, initiating a total paradigm shift.


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