In a startling turn of events at the African Union (AU) on Saturday, February 17, Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud claimed security forces barred him from the AU's summit venue, sparking a new round of diplomatic furore. In a strongly worded statement released midday, Somalia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded a "credible and independent" inquiry into the events that unfolded in Addis Abeba, describing them as part of a "growing list of erratic actions" by the Ethiopian government. The incident has been deemed both "outrageous" and "provocative" by Somalia, aggravating the already tense relations between the two countries.

Ethiopian authorities denied the allegations. A subsequent statement the Government Communications Services issued claimed security forces have "neither obstructed Somalia's President and his entourage nor barred him from entering the AU's premises."

Tensions have risen between Ethiopian and Somalian leaders since the January 1 announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland. The MoU, which involves a 20-mile stretch of coastline on the Indian Ocean, has been a point of contention, with Somalia maintaining that it infringes upon its sovereign territory. The details of the agreement have yet to be disclosed by either the Ethiopian government or Somaliland. However, President Mohamud urged African heads of state on Saturday to "ensure the respect of AU's principles" of sovereignty and territorial integrity of member countries.

In response to the controversy, Billene Seyoum, spokeswoman of the Prime Minister's Office, told the AFP that Ethiopia had warmly welcomed the President, providing him with all the honours befitting a visiting head of state. She noted, however, that Somalia's delegation's attempt to enter the summit venue armed had precipitated the standoff with AU's security personnel. Amid these diplomatic tensions, President Mohamud took to the reporters within the AU compound, claiming Ethiopia has the intention to annex Somalia's territory. The claim refers to the long-standing issue of Somaliland's de facto independence over the past three decades, which remains a sensitive topic in the region's geopolitics.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 17,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1242]

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