The President of the Republic of Somaliland, Musa Bihi Abdi, is, today, leaving for Addis Ababa on a formal state visit.
The President’s visit, according to sources close to the Somaliland presidency, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Ato Abiy Ahmed, sent him an official invitation – the first since the latter assumed office on 2 April 2018.
It is the second for President since 14 December 2017 when he took over the leadership of the unrecognized Horn of Africa country.
The President’s visit also comes at a time Ethiopia signed a deal with the government of Djibouti to construct an export terminal at the Red Sea port for Eastern Ethiopia’s massive gas deposits.
Ethiopia found extensive gas deposits in its eastern Ogaden Basin, especially in the Calub and Hilala fields in the 1970s. To develop production, Ethiopia signed a share deal with China’s POLY-GCL Petroleum Investments in 2013.
Ethiopia has turned a cold shoulder to Somaliland since Prime Minister Ahmed came to power giving much fanfare to a professed rapport between it and Somaliland’s arch-rival, Somalia, instead.
Although many think that the invitation may be the beginning of a thaw on the Ethiopian side, critics have started sounding the alarm trumpet.
“It is not a coincidence that President Faramjo is arriving in Addis Ababa, the same day as President Bihi’s,” one of them told.
Many believe that the only motive Abiy has behind the President’s invitation at this juncture of time is to convince President Bihi not to bring western countries aboard in the planned talks between the two countries but, instead, to invite Ethiopia and Djibouti to the table. Said two countries, however, are to Somalilanders, worse than Somalia in regards to acknowledging their existence in more ways than one.
The more cynical among the political analysts state that the invitation could not have come at a worse time. Besides granting Djibouti right to host export terminal for the Somali State gas, Ethiopia has also visibly cooled down its enthusiasm to use Berbera port or to own up to a 19% percent its previously announced it bought from DP World. Many believe that Ethiopia is no longer interested in a Somaliland that has remained a steadfast friend to Ethiopia through the years protecting, among other things, its eastern flank.
“The foreign policy – if any – Somaliland followed for the past 28 years has proven ineffective, impotent. It is time it came with a complete face-lift. It is time for a more aggressive approach where a friend was a friend and a foe, a foe,” voices to this effect has been gaining momentum on both social and conventional media posts.
The Presidency has said nothing about the visit or its projected aim. As such, it has neither approved nor denied the rumored meeting with President Farmajo which Abiy is said to have arranged.
President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ of the Federal Government of Somalia has, since coming to power in February 2017 has overturned agreements the two sides reached in on-going talks since 2012, tried to stop ‘special arrangement’ aid between Somaliland and partners, and has started pointing an accusing finger at any government or organizations that showed the least support to Somaliland, including Ethiopia. President Farmajo conveniently chose to ignore that Somaliland has built a better state with fully functioning organs in 1991 and has, since then, achieved what many recognized countries in Africa, including his, have failed to effect.
If the rumored meeting between Bihi and Farmajo materializes, it will corroborate the revelation made by the Somaliland-born, Somalia Deputy PM, Mahdi Guleid, that the two leaders maintained close contact with one another over the telephone despite their contrived public belligerence against each another.