In 1991 [corrected] Djibouti, under the late President Hassan Guled Abtidon, hosted a Somali Peace Conference. Former Somali top officials, including Abdirisaq Haji Hussein and Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal attended the conference. Djibouti treated Somali dignitaries differently, offering preferential hosting treatment to delegates from Mogadishu, a fact that caused the resentment of late prime minister, Abdirisaq H. Hussein. Mr Hussein, famous for his wits in Somali language, reminded Hassan Guled of the fact that Djibouti “received some of us as brothers and some of us as friends”. Hassan Guled was stunned. He immediately drew the attention of his aides to discontinue such different standards for Somali guests.

In 1996 Abullahi Yusuf and I passed through Djibouti from Addis Ababa on our way to the commercial city of Northeast, Bosaso. We checked in Sheraton Hotel Djibouti for two nights to prepare our flight connection to Bosaso. We were officials of the National Salvation Council (the Sodare Group). While there, Ismail Omar Ghuelleh, the Chief of Staff at Djibouti presidency and Director of Intelligence then, heard about our presence in town. One afternoon Guelleh invited us for a tea at his home. We met him in his Qat-chewing room. We also learned later that Djibouti First Lady was having her own Qat session next room. Ghuelleh was watching a large TV screen on the wall with Ethiopian Satellite channel on. Further into our chit-chat, he informed us that Djibouti couldn’t survive on its own. They were contemplating about Djibouti joining Ethiopia. Abdullahi Yusuf advised him not to do that and that Djibouti should better hang on while we are trying to revive the failed state of Somalia. Guelleh seemed unpersuaded. The rest is history. Djibouti didn’t join Ethiopia because of our help in the Somali peace and reconciliation process.

Later as Ghuelleh became president of Djibouti, we met him again and submitted a letter to urge him to take up Somali peace and reconciliation process from foreign hands as he was a Somali man himself. He agreed.

From our side, we had mobilised the entire Somalia’s political elites, factions and warlords to help Djibouti take up the job of Somalia’s national reconciliation process. We had convinced the international Community to abandon parallel initiatives on Somali talks and persuaded Kenyan President, Daniel Arab Moi, to hold off any plans of convening Somali conference in Nairobi, as we asked him to talk to Meles Zenawi to help Ismail Omar Ghuelleh to be able to host Somali peace conference. He agreed. Thus, we developed the concept of “Frontline States” working together on Somalia’s issues. But the problem was that Ethiopia was an AU-sponsored “Mandated Country” then for Somalia’s Peace and National Reconciliation. Puntland and Djibouti jointly had successfully pushed this agenda despite Zenawi’s annoyance and disappointment.

Meanwhile, we convened all Somali factions, except Hussein Aideed’s Salbalaar faction, to Garowe to establish a new alliance, the Somali Peace Alliance (SPA). Puntland had led this alliance as one delegation to Djibouti. We met with Ghuelleh in his office at Presidency.. He said, “you have done more than half the job”.

Enter our next meeting with President Ghuelleh in Djibouti. Abullahi Yusuf and I were transiting through Djibouti on our way to London via Addis Ababa. It was private medical check-up for Puntland President in the UK. While there, Ghuelleh wanted to see Abdullahi Yusuf. The encounter so happened that Ismail Thani, Ghuelleh’s Chief of Staff, visited us in Sheraton Hotel and informed us that President Ghuelleh wanted to see President Abullahi Yusuf. We both stood up to go to the Presidency. Thani advised me to stay behind as Ghuelleh wants only Mr Yusuf. At presidency, Thani too was asked to leave the two Presidents alone. Nobody knew what had happened between the two men, save what Mr. Yusuf told me afterwards. However, Mr Yusuf returned to our hotel annoyed, Here lies the extreme rift between Puntland and Djibouti, or rather, disagreement between the two men. It is my understanding, though, that Abdullahi Yusuf felt the same resentment Abdirisaq Haji Hussein had expressed then in 1991, after the former met privately with Mr Ghuelleh.

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