jeudi, 04 mai 2017 16:38

Somali president visits Ethiopia ... at last

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Somalia's new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, was to visit Ethiopia on Wednesday in a much-anticipated meeting aimed at smoothing over decades of mistrust. Farmajo has been criticised for waiting three months before going to Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopia trip is by far the most important visit abroad that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will make and it is also the most difficult, says Gérard Prunier, a French historian specialising in the Horn of Africa.

Farmajo has visited five other countries, including Kenya, beforehand.

"He didn't have the guts to go there first," Prunier told RFI by phone on Tuesday.

"Since it's going to be a controversial visit with difficult circumstances, difficult dialogue, he probably postponed it until he felt it was absolutely necessary."February, campaigning on a platform to defeat the Al Shabaab armed group  and improve security.

Yet he almost did not make it to the presidency due to meddling from the Ethiopian government.

"The Ethiopian government backed a different candidate, so there was speculation that the new Somali president may actually be hostile to Ethiopia, a regional country with a military presence in Somalia," Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa Director at the International Crisis Group in Nairobi told RFI.

Letting bygones be bygones

Yet the urgency of Mogadishu's security concerns leave Farmajo with little choice but to do business with Addis.

"Definitely there is a huge security imperative which is how to deal with Al Shabaab," Abdi says. "Al Shabaab is an existential threat not only to Somalia but to the region. And I think that security cooperation between the two countries will be very central to how they move forward."

Relations though weren't helped when Ethiopia pulled its troops from Somalia last October.unilaterally departed from two strategic towns in the Hiraan region of central Somalia, with Addis blaming the EU for failing to sufficiently support Amisom.

Since then, the regional force has secured significant gains: driving out Al Shabaab militants from the Somali capital Mogadishu. But the latter remain active in the rural parts of Somalia.

"Al Shabaab remains a formidable threat still and clearly there will be expectations of a more robust Amisom push against Al Shabaab," at the talks, Abdi reckons.

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