Somalia, Ethiopia clash over African Union VIP security clearance

Monday February 19 2024

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. PHOTO | POOL


Somalia and Ethiopia on Saturday clashed over African Union security access, reflecting the level of relations between them.

And it started after Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation alleged that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had been prevented from accessing African Union headquarters on Saturday where African leaders were gathering for the 37th Ordinary Session of the heads of state and government.

Ethiopia said the Somali delegation had attempted to enter the AU premises with firearms without prior authorisation, leading to a standoff.

 “The Federal Government of Somalia strongly condemns the provocative attempt by the Ethiopian government to obstruct the delegation of the Somali President from attending the 2024 AU Summit in Addis Ababa. We call for an urgent, credible and independent investigation,” the ministry said.

Read: AU urges restraint over Ethiopia-Somaliland deal

Later, President Mohamud claimed his delegation had been harassed because Somalia opposes Ethiopia’s recent MoU with Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland over access to the sea.


“It is illegal and it is a violation of all of the internationally accepted standards and charters of the AU and the United Nations. Ethiopia is misleading the world by claiming that they need access to the sea,” Mohamud told a press conference on Saturday in Addis Ababa.

“The question is not access to the sea. The question is how Ethiopia wants access to the sea. Somalia has said many times that we are ready to provide that access. But we want to provide access to our coastal areas to Ethiopia the way Uganda accesses the sea in Kenya and Tanzania.”

Read: Somalia: No talks unless Ethiopia retracts deal

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia issued a statement to specifically respond to the harassment claim. It said Ethiopia welcomed every head of delegation to the African Union, including Somalia’s, despite recent tensions over the MoU signed on January 1.

“As host country, the Government of Ethiopia is responsible for the security of all Heads of State and Government while in the country,” it said.

“Somalia delegation refused the assigned state security personnel. Moreover, the Somali delegation security attempted to enter the AUC (African Union Commission) premises with weapons which was blocked off by AUC security. Ethiopia remains committed to cordial relations with its neighbours."

Read: Bound by blood, Ethiopia PM says of Somalia

President Mohamud’s attendance at the summit was itself surprising given the recent war of words between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa, and Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. But both sides were supposed to follow the African Union for the summit which among other things requires Ethiopian security agencies to provide 24-hour security for all heads of delegations.

Ethiopia issued a guide with the African Union last month indicating that all summit participants would be subject to a series of security checks with exemptions only provided by the African Union Commission.

One of the rules says no firearms or weapons are allowed in the AU premises except for heads of State and Government Security protection officers whose list should be provided to AU Safety and Security Services.

“A Close Protection Security Officer of a Head of State/Government is required to obtain weapon clearance from the Host Government and subsequent permission from the AUC Security,” the rules say.

Diplomatic missions were asked to provide the list of security officers accompanying heads of State and Government as well as ministers to the summit. Failure to which the delegations may be subjected to checks.

Read: Somalia signs law 'nullifying' Ethiopia-Somaliland Berbera port pact

Ethiopian authorities say such information should have been provided at least last week, detailing the number and type of firearm and communication equipment to be used.

Each delegation led by heads of State is allowed to bring into Ethiopia only five side arms. Delegations led by the head of Government or minister are allowed to bring only two side arms. Permission for these firearms must be sought at least 72 hours before arrival.

All arriving dignitaries are granted special reception at the airport but only the African Union anthem is played.