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Ethiopia to dispatch envoy to Hargeisa after spat with Egypt

By Abuga Makori , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ethiopia is set to dispatch an envoy to Hargeisa, Garowe Online has learned, a move which could increase Somaliland's quest for statehood, just barely a fortnight after Addis Ababa questioned Egypt's intentions to establish a military base in the northern breakaway region of Somalia.

A senior official privy to the new development who spoke on condition of anonymity said Ethiopia reached the decision after a delegation led by Finance Minister Ahmed Shide visited Hargeisa where they held a closed-door meeting with President Muse Bihi Abdi. Details of the meeting still remain scanty.

But according to the source, besides pledging to push for Somaliland's recognition, Ethiopia, which is a major stakeholder in a quest to restore order and stability in Somalia, agreed to dispatch a full-time envoy to Hargeisa, a move which would significantly increase the region's quest for nationhood.

"It was a successful meeting and we're optimistic that eventually, our efforts will bear fruits," said the informer. "Ethiopia will deploy an envoy to Somaliland and this is not a mean achievement, it will enable Hargeisa to argue her case with support from bigwigs such as Addis Ababa."

However, the move could ignite tensions in Mogadishu, which has been claiming the region. In recent months, Somalia has come out as a major friend to Ethiopia following the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam along the Blue Nile, which rattled Egypt, a move that saw Mogadishu backing Addis Ababa.

Once Ethiopia establishes a consulate in Hargeisa, it will join Kenya, which has already expressed intentions to set up a liaison office in Somaliland to "bolster" trade and relations. So far, Taiwan, and East Asian island, has established a consulate in Somaliland much to the provocation of Somalia and China.

Although it's not clear who Ethiopia's actions will be received in Mogadishu, Addis Ababa is a key stakeholder in reconciliation between the two parties, having been part of the successful meeting in Djibouti last month. A technical committee constituted from Somaliland and Somalia will table recommendations for principles of cooperation between the two regions.

But the source insists that the decision by Ethiopia will not affect Egypt's interests in Somaliland, arguing that: "We shall ensure that both of them are satisfied and their interests are safeguarded. Their differences can be solved diplomatically without violence or intimidations."

Ethiopia and Egypt have been at loggerheads in recent months over the Constitution Grand Renaissance Dam which the latter argues that it will "deplete" her only source of livelihood if filled progressively. Their differences have been shifted to Somaliland, a move which could be "blessings in disguise" for Hargeisa, which is pushing for international recognition.

Reports from Hargeisa indicated last months that Egypt had requested to be granted permission to set up a military base in Somaliland, a move which Ethiopia termed as "crafty and suspicious". A delegation from Cairo met Bihi before Ethiopia dispatching Shide to Hargeisa for talks.

“As a sovereign country, Egypt has a legitimate right to create relationships with any county in the region,” Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Ambassador Dina Mufti, said.

However, he added that Egypt’s relationships should not be established at the expense of another country, arguing that such actions could compromise security within the Horn of Africa.

“If Egypt’s intent to have a presence in the region would be a threat to a third country, that won’t be appropriate,” he said. “In this case, we need to have concrete instances of what’s happening…we hope it won’t be at the expense of Ethiopia or any other neighboring countries because if so, it will be unlawful, against humanity and international peace and security.”

It's not yet known if Somaliland has accepted Egypt’s proposal, but the two have reportedly reached an agreement on the exchange of high-level representation offices in Hargeisa and Cairo according to the breakaway region's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But Amb Mufti rejected speculation that Ethiopia’s visit was due to concerns over Egypt’s plan, claiming that the meeting was routine bilateral talks between Hargeisa and Addis Ababa, which have been taking place since 1991 when Somaliland claimed independence from Somalia.

“These are routine schedules aimed to discuss bilateral relations between the countries and it has nothing to do with the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Somaliland.”

While the source says plans to dispatch an ambassador to Hargeisa are on "top-notch", he didn't however, reveal the timeline. The move, he added, will tremendously boost Somaliland's quest for statehood, saying that "we need both Egypt and Ethiopia on the table to our advantage".

The decision could also shape Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed's foreign policy, given his contributions towards pushing for peace and regional integration within East Africa and the Horn. It is through such initiatives that he earned a place in world history after winning the lucrative Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 following the peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia.


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