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"Nigerian Ex-President Mediates Ethiopia-Somalia Tensions"
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In an effort to prevent escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia from erupting into a full-scale war, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has deployed former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for negotiations.

The strained relations between the two neighboring countries intensified after the secessionist region of Somaliland signed an agreement with Ethiopia on January 1st, granting Ethiopia control over a maritime port and a military base on the Red Sea.

Last week, Somalia declared its readiness to go to war.

This is not the first time the two nations have clashed. In 1977, they disputed territory, and in 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia as part of the fight against terrorism.

By allowing Ethiopia access to its territory, Somaliland hopes to gain recognition as an independent state, a status it has asserted since 1991 when it broke away from the voluntary union of 1960 with Somalia.

Obasanjo faces a challenging task as the two countries engage in a delicate geopolitical dance. On Wednesday, Somalia turned away an Ethiopian flight bound for Somaliland, carrying representatives of the Ethiopian government.

The PSC has called on Ethiopia and Somalia to adhere to the fundamental principles of the AU and international law in their bilateral and international relations.

The African Union regards Somaliland as a province of Somalia.

While appointing Obasanjo, the PSC has also urged against interference by other countries in the matter. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) held an extraordinary summit on Thursday in Kampala, Uganda, to discuss the issue.

However, Somalia has stated that it will not engage in any discussions with Ethiopia unless the latter reverses its January 1 agreement with Somaliland.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia have been violated by Ethiopia when it signed an illegal agreement with the northern region [the administration of Somaliland] of Somalia. That is why there is no room for mediation unless Ethiopia reverses its illegal agreement and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia,” stated the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Piers Potter

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