The Horn of Africa should be grateful to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed; if not for anything, but for his role in ensuring peace in the region.
Dr. Ahmed has taken it upon himself to unify the entire region and he has been the brain box behind the peace agreements in countries across the region within the last year.
In his relentless effort to make sure peace reigns in the land, the Ethiopian Prime Minister has sent emissaries to Kenya and Somalia in a bid to resolve the unnecessary maritime border dispute that continues to worsen the fragile diplomatic ties in the entire region.
Officials in Nairobi and Mogadishu said Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the region's security perfect, had scheduled a meeting for this week between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohammed Farmajo for July 13.
However, the meeting was still subject to confirmation from the two heads of State with the officials leaving it at "their diaries allowing."
The revelations came amid intense speculation on Tuesday that Somalia had ceded ground on the dispute by giving room for an out-of-court settlement, a path it disowned by taking the matter to the International Court of Justice in 2014 where the matter is set for hearing on September 9.
However, President Farmajo's office said: "We unequivocally deny a change of the position of the Federal Government of Somalia on the ongoing case at ICJ."
"The office of the Attorney General will investigate the sources of this propaganda and the fake news it embodies," the Somalia presidency's director of communications Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed said of the "malicious media
Senior Somali government officials, however, said Dr. Abiy has been working behind the scenes to broker a truce amid pressure from key international players like the United States and the United Kingdom for a peaceful solution.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) its partners fear the maritime dispute could undermine cooperation in the fight against terrorism and sea piracy in the Horn of Africa.
An earlier bid this year by Dr. Abiy failed after Mogadishu stuck to resolving the dispute in court.4
Yet Ethiopia, which has interests in Somali ports and shares defense cooperation with Kenya, has insisted the maritime dispute should be resolved amicably, to avoid stalling other areas of cooperation.
On Tuesday media reports in Mogadishu had indicated that President Farmajo was willing to delay - not withdraw - the case at ICJ and allow "negotiations under special arrangements."
Nairobi also downplayed reports of a change of heart in Mogadishu saying there was nothing official.
"We will need to verify," Kenya Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau said.
There has been mounting diplomatic pressure for Kenya and Somalia to accept an out-of-court settlement, a position that Nairobi prefers.
The dispute between Kenya and Somalia arose from a 2014 case in which Mogadishu sued Nairobi, seeking to redraw the sea boundary from the current eastwards extension of the land border to a diagonal one towards the South East.
Should Dr. Abiy, prevail in his efforts, the case could be delayed to allow for a joint committee of the two countries to table proposals on the solution.
In 2009, Kenya and Somalia technocrats drew an MoU which the Somali Parliament rejected, prompting Mogadishu to file the case at ICJ.
The ICJ ruled the MoU was a valid bilateral agreement but went ahead to admit the case for hearing on the grounds that alternative means had not been exhausted.
To postpone the case, the two countries would need to write a joint letter seeking the ICJ leave for an out-of-court settlement for consideration by judges.
Header Image Credit: Smithsonian Magazine