East African leaders meet to calm Ethiopia, Kenya-Somalia tensions

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) meeting with his Sudanese counterpart Abdalla Hamdok on the sidelines of the 38th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Djibouti. PHOTO/ AFP

What you need to know:

  • Kenya is one of the biggest contributors of troops to the African Union's AMISOM mission in Somalia, which is fighting against Al-Shebab Islamist radicals tied to Al-Qaeda.

Leaders from a group of East African nations met in Djibouti Sunday for a summit on a "humanitarian crisis" in Ethiopia and rising "tension" between neighbours Kenya and Somalia.

Representatives from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan - all members of the IGAD regional group - gathered for talks "to discuss ongoing regional peace and security processes", Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said before the meeting began, according to a statement issued by the Kenyan presidency.
Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, Somalia's Mohamed Abdullahi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed all attended.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, who leads the African Union Commission and also took part, urged IGAD members to "assist (Ethiopia) in dealing with the humanitarian crisis arising out of the conflict in its Tigray region", the Kenyan presidency said.
A 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ethiopia’s Abiy sent federal troops into Tigray on November 4 in a dispute with regional authorities from the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

The TPLF ruled Ethiopia as a whole for 30 years and had been defying the federal government for months.
Abiy said on November 28 that fighting was over after the regional capital Mekele was captured, but Tigray remains mostly cut off from the outside world and the UN is pressuring the prime minister to grant humanitarian organisations access.
The AU's Faki also called on Kenya and Somalia to defuse tensions through dialogue, according to the Kenyan presidency.

Somalia broke off diplomatic relations on December 15, accusing its neighbour Kenya of "violations of its sovereignty".
Kenya is one of the biggest contributors of troops to the African Union's AMISOM mission in Somalia, which is fighting against Al-Shebab Islamist radicals tied to Al-Qaeda.

Somalia's weak government only controls a part of its national territory.
One of the biggest bones of contention between Kenya and Somalia is Jubaland, a southern Somali state bordering Kenya.
Nairobi sees Jubaland as a buffer zone between its territory and Al-Shebab, backing regional president Ahmed Madobe.
 

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