Mustafa Omer, a.k.a. Cagjar, was on a visit to Somaliland...

March 2 , 2019

The vice president of the Somali Regional State, Mustafa Omer, a.k.a. Cagjar, was on a visit to Somaliland, the unrecognised republic next door, whose leaders he has had a tense relationship with since his arrival in office in August 2018. He was there to cut the ribbon for the construction of a 245Km road planned between the Port of Berbera and the town of Wajaale, projected to cost 111 million dollars.

It was also a visit made with the backdrop of Mustafa blaming Somaliland leaders for allegedly sheltering former officials of the regional government he is now in charge of. And his travel was made a week after a high level delegation from Somaliland, led by its President, Musa Bihi Abdi, came to Addis Abeba to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) for the first time.

Meet, they did; but not in a manner both sides could feel was fruitful, gossip disclosed.

President Bihi was invited over to Addis Abeba, despite being sidelined since Abiy became the leader of the largest country with the largest population in the region, gossip observed. Somaliland has not been one of his priorities during his series of tours and meetings with leaders of Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti and its arch rival, Somalia. Hargeisa is the only capital in the region Abiy has yet to pay a visit since becoming prime minister.

Abiy’s individualistic approach to diplomatic overtures often takes his administration’s senior diplomats camped in the foreign office on Menelik II Avenue by surprise, claims gossip. Hardly were they prepared, if not surprised, to hear Bihi was in Addis Abeba to meet Somalia’s President, Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, a.k.a. Farmaajo, gossip says. It was a meeting that was not to be had, according to gossip.

Farmaajo simply had his itinerary passing through Addis Abeba on his return flight home from Burundi, claims gossip. Abiy wanted to take this opportunity to try to bring Farmaajo and Bihi together for a face-to-face meeting, claims gossip. It would have been the first time a leader of Somalia meets a leader from a breakaway republic whose leaders self-declared Somaliland’s autonomous existence nearly 28 years ago.

Despite lack of international recognition of its independence, Somaliland is the most democratic state in the region and relatively better governed, claims gossip. It has its own army, prints its own currency and issues its own passports to its citizens recognised by eight countries, including Ethiopia.

Had Abiy succeeded in making the two leaders shake hands in Addis Abeba, it would have been a diplomatic breakthrough of a stalemate in existence since May 1991, according to gossip. Alas! Farmaajo appears to have been in no mood to give him such a delight, claims gossip. Expected to arrive the same night - on February 20, 2019 - Bihi came over to see Abiy, Farmaajo decided to change his route, instead travelling via Dubai, gossip disclosed.

Nonetheless, Abiy might have decided not to waste the opportunity but pressed on issues Ethiopia has been asking the government of Somaliland since Hailemariam Desalegn’s time in office, gossip says. Originally advocated, rather passionately, by Arkebe Oqubay (PhD), senior industrial policy advisor to the Prime Minister, Ethiopia’s leaders want to get a dedicated port they can invest in at the Port of Zeila, claims gossip.

Meeting Bihi last week, Abiy has expressed Ethiopia’s desire to get land on the Indian Ocean shore to build and operate its own port, gossip revealed. It was considered undiplomatic for a leader of a country to raise such a delicate matter to his counterpart from another country during their very first meeting, claims gossip.

The Somalilanders were never in the mood to entertain such propositions from Ethiopia, for they would want to get a share of Ethiopia’s cargo to pass through the Port of Berbera where they are jointly developing it with Dubai and Ethiopia, the latter a minority shareholder with a 19pc stake in the project, according to gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 983]

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