Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was conspicuously absent from the IGAD meeting in Entebbe, while the regional body criticised Addis Ababa’s deal with Somaliland.

The 42nd extraordinary meeting of Heads of State convened on Thursday, with all member states’ presidents and heads of government in attendance.

Chaired by Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti and the IGAD Heads of State and Government Chairperson, the Assembly included William Ruto, President of Kenya, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia, Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda.

The gathering expressed concern over recent developments in the relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Highlighting, respect for the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia, IGAD issued a communique stating, “Any engagement should uphold the above cardinal principles, and any agreement or arrangement should be with the consent of the Federal Government of Somalia.”

The IGAD Heads of State and Government called for de-escalation of tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, urging both parties to engage in constructive dialogue. Addis Ababa had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland, granting access to the Red Sea’s Seaport.

The agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, facilitating a 50-year lease, aimed to enable Ethiopia’s military and commercial utilisation of the Red Sea.

However, this deal drew widespread condemnation, with the United States, IGAD, and the African Union (AU) accusing Addis Ababa of breaching a neighbouring state’s territorial integrity.

Despite escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, the AU called for mutual respect and appealed for calm in the region.