The fruits of Somalia’s President Mohamud’s four-day official visit to Eritrea (July 8th-July 12nd) were embodied in a Memorandum of Understanding with his counterpart Afwerki on strengthening bilateral military, diplomatic and economic relations, from agriculture to healthcare.
Obviously, a mention was made about the approximately 5,000 Somali soldiers sent to the country in 2019-2020 for training purposes and – as speculated, but never ascertained – to actually take part in the Ethiopian offensive in Tigray. Mohamud reaffirmed his commitment to their return home. He later met in Mogadishu with the committee that has been asking for clarification on the matter for some time, but the President did not provide them with more certain information and timeframes.
The MoU text is vague, and misalignments persist, but the agreement cements via Eritrea a front with Ethiopia which should combine the political-military side with the economic-commercial one. The Somali President then went to Kenya (July 14th), to take care of the other side of Mogadishu’s necessarily broad regional policy – after the UAE, Turkey and precisely Eritrea.
Here the fruits appear more concrete. Bilateral trade in khat was reopened after a blockade imposed two years ago; direct flights between Kenya and Mogadishu were also reopened. The goodwill gesture serves to defuse tensions that had grown under formal Somali President Farmajo. After the conclusion of the International Court of Justice ruling on the maritime border, which attributed most of the disputed area to Somalia, these tensions culminated in a dispute within IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development between the States of the Horn of Africa) over perceived Kenyan meddling.
On his return, Mohamud then visited Djibouti (July 17th), a party in this same diatribe. Djibouti President Guelleh bestowed Mohamud with the highest national honour, a soothing symbolic gesture.
A visit to Ethiopia, a second stop on July 17th, was hitherto missing; high-level meetings are now scheduled.
The diplomatic efforts are complemented on the international level by humanitarian assistance from the EU and the US, for food supplies. The EU also approved a EUR 120 million contribution for ATMIS (African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia), while the US Ambassador Andre also did not hesitate to declare a stronger commitment on counter-terrorism as part of the new strategy announced by the local authorities. On the other hand, Premier Barre met with the Chinese Ambassador in Mogadishu.
A car bomb exploded in Jowhar (July 17th), while a shootout between opposing factions took place at Bosaso airport (Puntland) after the arrival of the Vice-President of Parliament (July 11th). These incidents illustrate how multifaceted the threats to stability still are.
The tensions between the federal level and the Puntland authorities that arose after the election of the institutional leadership show no signs of abating. Contributing to this are the foreign trips of the regional President Deni, who has travelled to the UAE and Ethiopia and is trying to carve out an international role for himself, along the lines of what has already been seen with Somaliland and to some extent with Jubaland, whose President Madobe has been in talks with British officials. Even the publicity given to the affair of the Somali-British athlete Mo Farah – a victim of international human trafficking during his childhood, which the London authorities now promise to investigate – highlights the links on that side of international politics.