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East African countries urged to solve conflicts through dialogue

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2020-12-21 19:44
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East African countries have been urged to explore dialogue in solving the conflicts, violence and tensions in some countries for the peace and stability of the entire region.

The sentiments were expressed during the 38th extra-ordinary summit of the assembly of heads of state and government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc, held in Djibouti on Sunday.

The meeting, aimed at discussing ongoing regional peace and security initiatives, was attended by the heads of state of Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, the prime ministers of Sudan and Ethiopia, the vice-president of South Sudan, the ambassador of Uganda to Djibouti, the chairman of the African Union Commission and the trade bloc's executive secretary.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the commission's chairman, said the current diplomatic tension between Kenya and Somalia is a concern.

Mahamat called for dialogue in de-escalating the tension, saying the two countries share a long history of good neighborliness. He also cited Kenya's contribution of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia and its hosting of a large population of Somali refugees as key reference points.

"I would, therefore, like to call on the two parties to open dialogue with a view to the resumption of these relations, and ask (the intergovernmental authority) to strongly encourage them in this regard," Mahamat said.

Somalia cut off diplomatic relations on Dec 15, accusing its neighbor Kenya of interfering in the country's internal and political affairs.

Somalia then recalled its ambassador to Kenya and expelled the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia. Somalia also imposed a ban on the export of miraa (a Arabian tea) to Kenya.

"In recent weeks, it has become apparent to Somalia that the Kenyan government is placing great political pressure on Axmed Maxamed Islaan, the regional president of Jubaland, in order to pursue its political and economic interests in Somalia," the Somalia Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement dated Nov 29.

The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the claims, terming the allegations as untrue and unsubstantiated.

"The government of Kenya respects and upholds the cardinal international principles of self-determination, sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all countries, and in particular those in Africa," the ministry said in a statement dated Nov 30.

Also discussed during the intergovernmental authority meeting was the ongoing tension in Ethiopia that has seen thousands internally displaced.

Mahamat urged the intergovernmental authority's member states to assist the country in dealing with the humanitarian crisis arising out of the conflict in its Tigray region.

He said the Ethiopian government took bold steps to preserve the unity, stability and respect for the constitutional order of the country, which is legitimate for all states.

Mahamat, however, said it cannot be denied that the crisis in Tigray has provoked large-scale displacement.

"I express my deepest gratitude to (the intergovernmental authority's) leaders for understanding and acknowledging our law enforcement measures as legal and legitimate, as well as for expressing commitment to supporting Ethiopia," the country's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, wrote on his Twitter account.

Mahamat said peace and reconciliation in South Sudan continue to call for greater efforts from national stakeholders and the region, to defend the gains made so far to ensure much needed peace, security and stability in the country.

He said the intergovernmental authority is expected to play a strategic role in an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

"I reiterate the commitment of the African Union to contribute to efforts in the region. Africa can no longer and should not suffer from the tensions and divisions," Mahamat said.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti applauded the progress made in the search for sustainable peace and stability in the region, despite disruptions posed by the coronavirus pandemic and other setbacks, such as floods and the desert locust invasion.

Abdallah Hamdok, the prime minister of Sudan and the current chairman of the intergovernmental authority, commended the trade bloc and its member states for the huge success in combating and effectively forcing back the locust invasion and fast-tracking the democratic transition in South Sudan.

The member states of the intergovernmental authority are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan. Eritrea suspended its membership in 2017 in protest against the authority's partisanship with Ethiopia.

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