Somalia: Govt, Somaliland Leaders Resume Talks in Djibouti

The leaders of the federal government of Somalia and the self-declared republic of Somaliland held a landmark meeting in the neighboring Djibouti on Sunday.

The meeting was hosted and chaired by President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti.

“The resumption of the talks between Somalia and Somaliland is a perfect illustration of the continued determination of the leaders of the region to resolve differences through dialogue,” Guelleh said via Twitter.

The meeting agenda was not publicized, but one observer, who has been following the efforts that led to Sunday’s talks, said the first step is to build trust between the sides and agree on a process for the talks.

By the end of the day, the two sides had agreed to appoint technical committees to continue the talks. The sides have also agreed not to politicize international development assistance and investment.
The United States Embassy, which has been supporting the process, welcomed the opening of the talks. “We support coop for the good of the #Somali people & urge all Somalis to be part of the process,” the embassy posted on Twitter.

The United Nations office in Somalia followed up in endorsing the meeting in Djibouti.

“This is an encouraging step towards future #dialogue, which we hope will result in common benefits,” says the U.N.

A crucial participant of Sunday’s meeting was Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is keen on bringing the two sides together, according to diplomats.

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto, and representatives from the European Union, African Union and Inter-Government Authority on Development were present.

Guelleh acknowledged the meeting is a follow-up of the initiative by Ahmed, who brokered a meeting between Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi in Addis Ababa in February.

A proposed joint visit to Somaliland by Farmajo and Ahmed in February was shelved because of strong opposition from Somaliland opposition and parliamentarians.

Sunday’s talks coincide with preparations by Somalia and Somaliland to celebrate their 60th anniversary of independence from Britain and Italy. British-colonized Somaliland gained independence June 26, 1960. The rest of Somalia achieved the same four days later, July 1, 1960, and on the same day the two independent regions (South and Northern) merged to form the first independent Somali republic.

Following a bloody war in the late 1980s, which human rights organizations said claimed the lives of tens of thousands in Northern regions, Somaliland declared secession in May 1991 but has not achieved international recognition.