ONLF denies meeting Madobe in Nairobi, accuse Ethiopian media of spreading 'propaganda'
NAIROBI, Kenya - A much-speculated meeting between Jubaland leader Ahmed Madobe and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) leaders may have not taken place after all.
Reports by Addis Ababa Standard claimed that the embattled Jubaland leader met ONLF leaders among them party chairman Abdirahman Mahdi.
Both Madobe and ONLF leaders are in Nairobi since Sunday. Madobe's team has remained tight-lipped over the agenda of his trip to Kenya.
In a tweet on Wednesday, ONLF accused the Ethiopian paper of spreading 'fake' news, calling for 'adherence' to journalistic integrity.
"We advise Addis Standard to adhere to journalistic integrity & get information from credible sources rather than spreading onesided rumors," the party tweeted.
ONLF further said it is "committed to peace & stability of the Horn of Africa. It will engage with all stakeholders to advance tranquility".
The paper claimed that the two parties discussed the current political crisis in Jubaland, which has seen FGS and Ethiopia dragged into the standoff.
Harun Maruf, a VOA journalist, claimed an aide to Madobe said, "the presence of Madobe in Nairobi is purely a coincidence. If they meet, they will only say hello".
In a past interview, Mahdi had backed the Jubaland leader, who was born in the Ogaden region, before seizing powers in Kismayo after an onslaught against Al-Shabaab in 2013 with the aid of KDF.
“Kismayo is a very strategic position. And if things change there, it will affect the security of this country. And I believe Ahmed Madobe has so far done a good job," he said in a past interview.
"For now, we are not sure that if others come the security issue will be maintained," added Mahdi, insisting that instability in Kismayo will affect Ethiopia.
Jubaland has already written to the United Nations and AU accusing Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops of 'illegal incursion' in the Gedo region.
The troops, Jubaland said in a letter, had abducted local officials including three District Commissioners, forcing them to 'surrender jurisdictional authority' to FGS.
Last week, the Ethiopian troops allegedly blocked Jubaland Vice President Sayid Adan, who is currently stuck in Mandera town, North West of the capital Nairobi.
So strained has been Madobe's relationship with President Mohamed Farmajo, that both Kenya and Ethiopia have been dragged into the standoff, a move which could affect AMISOM operations.
Instructively, Mustafe Mohamud Omar, the current president of the Somali region, supports President Mohamed Farmajo and Abiy Ahmed's policies on Jubaland.
ONLF is the main opposition in the Somali region. The meeting between the two parties would further escalate tensions within Somalia and Ethiopia.
Mahdi, ONLF said, "had a productive meeting with Justice and Welfare Party Chairman Faisal A. Waraabe from Somaliland". The meeting took place in Nairobi on Wednesday.
Both parties, it added, 'emphasized the importance of peace and stability which will be the basis for justice and progress to all communities in the Horn of Africa'.
Jubaland authorities had called for an immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian non AMISOM troops from Gedo, accusing Farmajo and Abiy of a plot to overthrow Madobe.
The Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy has been under pressure to withdraw troops from Jubaland but he's yet to formally respond to an alleged violation of 'territorial integrity'.
Their presence could cause a rift with Kenya, a close ally of Madobe. Already, it's understood that KDF troops moved to El Wak town in Jubaland, which is currently under FGS and Ethiopian troops.