Somalia: with new President Mohamud's long-standing ties with Ethiopian rebels, power play shifts expected in Horn of Africa

    Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s return as Somalia’s president is set to reshape the war-torn nation’s relationship with neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia, with far-reaching repercussions across the Horn of Africa region.

    Mohamud, 66, who governed Somalia from 2012 to 2017, beat incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known locally as Farmajo, in a final round of voting to reclaim the post on May 15. While Farmajo forged close relations with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, Mohamud has long-standing ties with the rulers of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, who fought a war with Abiy’s forces and its Eritrean allies from late 2020 until a truce was agreed in March.

    The power shift has emboldened the Tigrayans, who are considering attacking the Eritrean capital of Asmara, according to three diplomats in the region who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to comment. That would open a new chapter in the Ethiopian conflict, which has already claimed thousands of lives.

    Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael wrote to Mohamud on Monday congratulating him on his victory and expressing his “readiness to cooperate in the overall stability of the region, building upon excellent pre-existing relations.” And Getachew Reda, a senior Tigrayan leader, said in a Twitter posting on the Somali elections that Isaias’s “pharaonic ambition in the Horn of Africa is decidedly unraveling.”

    Mohamud, who attended the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s 40th anniversary in Addis Ababa in 2015, has yet to pronounce on Somalia’s relations with its neighbors and whether there will be a shift in approach, although the diplomats said he’d already been in contact with Tigrayan officials about how to stabilize the region.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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