Kenya and Djibouti could both miss out on the chairmanship of regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), as the bloc seeks to resolve simmering differences between the countries.
In its first Ordinary Summit in nearly ten years, representatives of IGAD members are sitting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday and Friday to determine who becomes next chair.
The programme indicated the Council of Ministers will first meet on Thursday morning to nominate the country that will take chairmanship, as well as vote on a new organisational structure meant to make it more responsive to local challenges.
It appears that a planned swap between Kenya and Ethiopia for the chairmanship roles may not go through.
The last such ordinary summit happened in 2010 when Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki handed chairmanship to then Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi. Since then, Ethiopia has continuously held the chairmanship through its three successive Prime Ministers, Mr Meles, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn and currently Dr Abiy Ahmed.
One argument fronted by both Addis Ababa and Nairobi’s domination of the bloc is that they are the largest contributors to the IGAD budget and currently have no arrears. The two pump in at least $2.7 million each, per year.
But differences between Kenya and Djibouti have prevented the bloc from deciding, on consensus, who becomes the next Chair after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed.
On Wednesday, a diplomat told The EastAfrican that Somalia and Djibouti, who have been opposed to Kenya taking over chairmanship, have not relented, meaning a new country could take the position as a compromise.
“The seat could go to Uganda or Sudan,” the official said, indicating the compromise chair will be one way to avoid any fallouts.
Djibouti recently lost to Kenya at an African Union vote to endorse the African candidate for the UN Security Council seat. But the country has stuck in the race, launching campaigns and accusing the African Union of not following proper procedure to endorse a candidate.
Somalia, which supports Djibouti for the UN seat, has also staked against Nairobi. Until November, there had been simmering diplomatic tensions between Mogadishu and Nairobi after Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice seeking to have the maritime boundary between them redrawn.
In early November, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo (Somalia) agreed to restore all bilateral agreements, in spite of the case due in June 2020.
The IGAD Summit, composed of heads of state and governments, will also be expected to approve Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, a former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, as the new Executive Secretary. He had been appointed earlier last month in what Dr Abiy claimed followed “consensus.”
Dr Workneh has already taken over from Kenyan Mr Mahboub Maalim. He will, however, face the challenge of unifying the bloc’s members, bringing in Eritrea and raising funds for a bloc that has often relied on donors for most of its programmes.
Eritrea, a founder member of IGAD has often been on and off, suspending itself in 2007 before returning in 2016 but still failing to attend most meetings.
Formed in 1996, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa superseded the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) which was founded in 1986 to deal with natural disasters.
The new bloc was supposed to generate a regional identity and be in charge of resolving regional crises from civil wars to natural disasters, and enhance economic and regional integration.