Addis Ababa held talks on military cooperation with Somaliland Jan. 8—a week after announcing a controversial deal on sea access through the self-governing unrecognized republic. The talks began the same day Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visited Eritrea (Ethiopia's regional rival) seeking support for his harsh opposition to the deal, decried as a step toward recognition of Somaliland's independence. President Mohamud also signed a law Jan. 6 nullifying the New Year's Day memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the governments of Ethiopia and Somaliland, which grants the landlocked regional power a corridor to Somaliland's port of Berbera. The Somaliland government, based in Hargeisa, claims full sovereignty, and does not recognize Mogadishu's jurisdiction over the territory. (TNH, BBC News, Jurist)
Last month, Kenya's President William Ruto announced that the El Niño climate phenomenon, which has historically brought devastating flooding to the country, would not occur this year, contradicting weeks of warnings from meteorologists. Today, across the country, at least 60 people have died, over 50,000 more have been displaced, and 221 acres of farmland are under water as heavy rains associated with El Niño lash the region. The impact has been acutely felt in the northeast, where entire towns have been submerged. And it could be even worse in neighboring Somalia, where nearly 1.2 million people have been affected, prompting the country to declare an emergency and the UN's emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, to release $25 million to help it prepare for worse to come. The World Meteorological Organization predicts that this El Niño will last until at least April 2024, and the Food and Agriculture Organization in Somalia is projecting a once-in-a-century magnitude flood event.
El Niño will drive global food aid needs even higher in the coming months, a new analysis warns. The prediction comes as food aid agencies are already making ration cuts amid a budget squeeze. In July, meteorologists declared the onset of El Niño, a periodic climate phenomenon that usually brings drought to large stretches of the globe and wetter weather elsewhere. The analysis by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network says that humanitarian groups must prepare for "high food assistance needs." Another climate phenomenon, the Indian Ocean Dipole, could amplify El Niño's effects—with both compounded by the climate crisis. This September was the hottest ever recorded. "The temperature anomalies are enormous—far bigger than anything we have ever seen in the past," Petteri Taalas, head of the UN's meteorological agency, WMO, said in a press release. ACAPS, the Geneva-based analysis outfit, says Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mozambique, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, and Sudan may be the countries at the highest risk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged free grain to six African nations. The announcement comes one week after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, triggering a spike in global prices. Opening the Africa-Russian summit in St. Petersburg on July 27, Putin promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. The countries are among Moscow's closest allies on the continent, but they are not all the most food-import dependent. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that a "handful of donations" would not correct the market impact of Russia's termination of the year-long deal, which had cut cereal prices by more than one third. The African Union echoed Guterres' criticism.
The United Nations should update its 70-year-old refugee convention to address the growing number of people displaced across borders by the climate crisis, according to the UN's special rapporteur on climate change. Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 27, Ian Fry said there's an "urgent need" to protect the rights of the displaced as the climate crisis builds. While few argue with the need to address climate-related displacement, how to go about it is a sticky subject. Many legal experts—and the UN's two main agencies for displacement, the UNHCR and IOM—shun the term "climate refugees," saying that it's misleading and could even undermine existing protection law.
Somali officials announced May 28 that the country will institute a direct one-person-one-vote democracy by 2024. This comes after years of attempts to implement direct universal suffrage, first mandated by the Somali legislature in 2019, failed due to political divisions and internal conflict. State news agency SONNA called the decision an "historic turning point for the country." This new system will replace Somalia's current electoral process, in which clan elders elect delegates, who in turn elect all other regional and national political leaders.
Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.
More than 200 people have died in three weeks of fighting around a disputed town in Somalia's northern breakaway region of Somaliland. Médecins Sans Frontières said March 1 a hospital it supports in Las Anod was hit for the fourth time in "indiscriminate" shelling that has depopulated the town. The medical charity described the situation as "desperate"; more than 95,000 refugees have reportedly fled into neighboring Ethiopia after three weeks of clashes. Local militias around Las Anod are fighting to pull three administrative regions–Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn–away from Somaliland, with the aim of rejoining Somalia. Meanwhile, Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia that is also in a territorial dispute with neighboring Somaliland, has sent in troops to support the militias. Somaliland has claimed that the jihadist group al-Shabab is also fighting in Las Anod–an allegation denied by Puntland. Somali leaders in Mogadishu have called on Somaliland to allow the three administrative regions to decide their own futures. The international community has called on all sides to abide by an earlier announced ceasefire.