By Frank Kamuntu
Leaders from a group of East African nations met in Djibouti on Sunday for a summit on a “humanitarian crisis” in Ethiopia and rising “tensions” 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 Abdallah Hamdok said before the meeting.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, who heads the African Union Commission and also attended, urged IGAD members to “assist (Ethiopia) in addressing the humanitarian crisis emerging from the conflict in its Tigray region,” the Kenyan presidency said.
A 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ethiopia Abiy sent federal troops to 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 challenged the federal government for months.
Abiy said on November 28 that the fighting had ended after the regional capital Mekele was captured, but Tigray remains largely isolated from the outside world and the UN is putting pressure on the prime minister to allow humanitarian organizations to enter.
The AU leader also called on Kenya and Somalia to ease tensions through dialogue, according to the Kenyan presidency.
Somalia severed diplomatic relations on December 15, accusing its neighbour Kenya of “violating its sovereignty”.
Kenya is one of the largest troop contributors to the African Union AMISOM mission in Somalia, which is fighting al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab Islamic radicals.
One of the biggest bones of discord between Kenya and Somalia is Jubaland, a southern Somali state bordering Kenya. Nairobi sees Jubaland as a buffer zone between its territory and Al-Shabab, backing regional President Ahmed Madobe.