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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi and Somalia’s leader Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed aka Farmajo met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the first time, villa Somalia has confirmed, saying it was brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. The two leaders met at the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office on Tuesday.

The Addis Meeting

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Somali presidential spokesman Abdinur Mohamed confirmed Tuesday’s meeting to The Associated Press,

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“It was behind closed doors and no communique is being released. It was an ice-breaking one,” the spokesman said.

Ethiopia’s government has not commented publicly on the meeting, which occurred on the sidelines of an African Union gathering, AP reported.

Meanwhile, Bashe Omar, the Somaliland envoy to Kenya is optimistic the meeting between the two leaders in Addis will be the start of a new process that will ultimately see the two countries working together.

“This is what we have been praying for. We hope this will give the international community an opportunity to join in and unlock the issues that have created a buffer previously,” told the East African Business Week.

“We anticipate full political recognition at all costs. The possibilities for fruitful results are high only that Somalia’s previous miscalculations have proved difficult for the talks to go ahead. Now we are seeing some glimmer of hope after the Addis meeting,” added Bashe Omar.

President Bihi of Somaliland had never met Farmajo, despite the two leaders assuming office in 2017.

The meeting between the two leaders comes at a time when the international community has been pushing for the restart of talks between the two countries after initial talks initiated by Turkey collapsed.

Last year, a scheduled meeting between the two in Addis failed to materialize.

Farmajo has been in Addis Ababa for the 33rd African Union Summit while Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi attended the summit as part of his continued mission to push for Somaliland recognition by the African Union.

Last month, The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Ambassador James Swan visited Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa with a special message to the country’s President Muse Bihi on its (UN) support towards initiatives aimed at building mutual confidence and fostering dialogue between Hargeisa and Mogadishu.

“The United Nations welcomes initiatives aimed at building mutual confidence and fostering dialogue between Hargeisa and Mogadishu.

Somaliland’s argument

Somaliland was a British Protectorate from 1884 until 26 June 1960 when it became an independent state. Five days after receiving independence from Her Majesty’s Government, Somaliland chose to unite with Italian-trusteeship Somalia as the first step towards creating a “Greater Somalia” to unite all peoples of ethnic Somali origin across the Horn of Africa.

Sadly, the union between British Somaliland and Italian Somalia proved to be disastrous from the outset. Shortly after the creation of the Somali Republic, the people of Somaliland were excluded from decision-making and representative governance. In turn, the people of Somaliland rejected the Somali Republic’s constitution by referendum, and their disenchantment continued throughout the early years of the union as political and economic isolation grew. In December 1961, Somaliland army cadets staged an aborted coup, which highlights that within a matter of months, many Somalilanders were already disgruntled by the union with Italian Somalia.

After assuming power in a military coup in October 1969, Mohamed Siyad Barre led a brutal military dictatorship that in the 1980s embarked on a violent campaign against the people of Somaliland, killing between 50,000 to 100,000 civilians and displacing ten times more. Following the collapse of the Somali Republic in 1991, the people of Somaliland decided to withdraw from their voluntary union and re-assert Somaliland’s sovereignty and independence. Elders from Somaliland clans held a series of grassroots consultations with their communities, which led to Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence on 18 May 1991.

Somaliland has since then been pushing for international recognition but the Italian Somaliland which is today’s Federal Somali Government refuses to accept that and regards ex-British Somaliland to be part of SFG

Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has maintained its own democratic and independent government, flag, passport, currency, and security system.

Somaliland independence was strongly endorsed by a referendum in 2001, and by the results of 6 democratic nation-wide elections held since that time. International monitors have witnessed all of Somaliland’s elections since 2003 and pronounced them free and fair. By all accounts, Somaliland has one of the best democratic records in Africa.

Previous talks

Talks between the two sides which started in 2012 under the patronage of the international community failed partially due to a Somalia-aligned Turkey commandeering leadership of the mediations, and especially after it failed to enforce or even take a stand at points agreed upon which Somalia unilaterally rescinded. The share of and management of the Somaliland/Somalia airspace was one.

The talks also failed because Somalia insisted on including Somaliland-born ‘politicians’ currently working for Somalia on its side which intentionally aimed to project the talks not as two separate entities coming together on their own free will in 1960 but, rather, a mother Somalia toying with a petulantly reneging, recalcitrant region of its own.

Also, Farmajo’s latest nomination to the Somalia-side committee included at least three Somaliland-born members and a former son-in-law over his role in “massacre” during the dictatorial regime who destroyed major Somaliland cities, wells, bridges, killed more than 50 000 Somalilanders, maimed and traumatized double that figure and caused the fled of more than 300,000 refugees to Ethiopia in the late 80s.’

In 2018, Somalia and Somaliland engaged in a war of words following the signing of an agreement to manage the Berbera port.

Under the tripartite agreement signed in March, Ethiopia acquired a 19% stake in the port, joining Somaliland and DP World of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under a 30-year concession.

DP World is rebuilding the Port of Berbera touted to emerge as the busiest in the Horn of Africa once it’s completed.

Somalia declared the agreement ‘null and void’ saying Somaliland had no authority to enter into international agreements, to which Somaliland responded by saying Somalia had ‘declared war’.

The last round of talks between the two sides in March 2015 in Turkey collapsed and any attempts to revive them have not been successful. Somaliland canceled its participation in similar talks in March 2018 following a fall-out Somalia over the Berbera port row.

President Farmajo has previously said his government is still ready to resume the talks with Somaliland but the latter gave tough conditions for future dialogue.

Somaliland’s top demands were that Mogadishu admits that Somaliland was an independent country and that international intergovernmental organizations and institutions use the name, map, emblem, and flag of Somaliland in their project documents.

Denial of genocide and Honoring war criminals  

Moreover, President Farmajo had, time and again, made a point of rubbing salt on Somaliland wounds by posing with known and convicted war criminals, such as Colonel Tukeh, honoring and hailing them as national heroes such as the late General Samatar and General Ahmed Suleiman Dafleh.

Farmajo, in a thesis he submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Buffalo, USA, in 2009, so belittles the undeniable role which the armed wing of oppressed Somalilanders, SNM, played in bringing down the might of the genocidal, military apparatus. He wrote: “When Barre ignored this element, the opposition armed itself as the insurgent Somali National Movement (SNM), its aim simply to overthrow the Barre regime.” Page 17.

In the same thesis, he also, claims that Siyad Barre defeated the SNM – which was a blatant lie showing his support of his role model and uncle – at best.

“Barre and his superior American weapons reacted by emphatically crushing the SNM movement.”  Page 18.

He did not also spare the SSDF, playing up to the USC, instead, and justifying why the dictator fled.

“Although Siyad Barre successfully crushed two previous insurgent organizations (SNM and SSDF), the United Somali Congress (USC), formed in 1989, succeeded to topple the dictator already weakened and losing the support of his people as well as financial assistance from the U.S. and European countries.” Page 52

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