Ethiopia and Somalia enjoyed warm relations during Farmajo’s era. But the ties soared after the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. After being elected as a president, Mr. Hassan visited regional and neighboring capitals such as Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey. But he bypassed Ethiopia during all these visits which might be interpreted by Abiy Ahmed and his government advisers as hostile.
Importantly, when president Hassan visited Egypt, he appeared side by side with El Sisi that is galvanising Arab solidarity against Addis Ababa in their dispute over the exploitation of the Nile River. Hassan Sheikh was also close to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) when he served as a president between 2012 and 2017. TPLF is at war with Ethiopian government and its leadership was very quick to congratulate and welcome re-election of Hassan Sheikh. This might weaken the good relations both countries enjoyed previously.
Ethiopian authority reacted to president Hassan by approaching Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen who is the president of Southwest, a semi-autonomous region in Somalia instead of engaging central government in Mogadishu. Lafta-Gareen was reportedly flown to Addis Ababa by the Ethiopian army and later visited Ethiopia’s Somali region to hold talks with region’s president Mustafe Muhumed Omer.
This might stand on the way for Ethiopia’s push to create strong regional block, and on the other hand weaken Somalia’s central government to consolidate its power and build a peaceful state as Ethiopia directly engages with regional presidents.