Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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A Diplomatic Stalemate of Neighboring Countries: Kenya vs Somalia

By Mohamoud Yusuf

Diplomatic row is brewing between Kenya and Somalia after Mogadishu ordered the recent expulsion of Kenya’s Ambassador accusing Kenya of allegedly meddling in Somalia’s internal affairs and violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Diplomatic relations between the two nations soured in December 2020 at a time when Somalia Federal Government struggles to achieve consensus with its five federal member states over the modality and timing of the election of Somalia.  The Office Term of incumbent government of Somalia was supposed to end on 8th February, but elections of new parliament members who would then elect the new President, did not happen, due to political stalemate and election impasse. 

President Farmaajo with President Uhuru

The Mogadishu government blames Kenya of negatively influencing one of the opposing federal member states, namely Jubbaland State,  in which Kenyan Security contingent operate, as part of larger Security Forces of African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). In last quarter of 2020,  Somali government deployed some of newly trained armed forces in districts along the borderline between Kenya and Somalia, and there had been some skirmish fighting in Gedo region between deployed federal forces and militias loyal to Jubbaland State and allegedly backed by Kenya. More than 20000 armed forces from a number of African Union member states including neighboring counties of Somalia, are now present in Somalia to maintain peace and security and assist the Somali security forces to provide security for the political process at all levels as well as stabilization, reconciliation and peace building in Somalia, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2372(2017) AMISOM is mandated to pursue the following strategic objectives.

Somalia submitted a formal diplomatic complaint against Kenya to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in late December 2020. IGAD forum subsequently appointed an ongoing fact-finding mission that was assigned to look into issues surrounding the diplomatic row, and make. Recommendations.

In addition to that, the relationship between Somalia and Kenya was hardened over the standing maritime dispute,  which is rooted in their Indian Ocean border.  Kenya was pushing for an out-of-court settlement, and the Somali government has been resolute the issue would go to full trial at the International Court of Justice.  The maritime dispute was escalated to the International Court of Justice, following failed attempts of reaching amicable resolution on the case and Somalia brought its case to the ICJ at The Hague in 2014.  The dispute involving A narrow triangle off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention between neighboring Kenya and Somalia. Both countries claim the area because it supposedly has a large deposit of oil and gas. in early February,   2021,  

Somalia rejected the Kenyan government’s fourt request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to postpone the maritime case between the two neighboring East African countries,  and the court case of “Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya) Public hearings”  is currently underway  in Hague in the absence of Kenya after they pullout out of the court case. Somalia has indeed a 3,333-kilometer (2,071-mile) coastline, which is the longest in Africa,  while Kenya in contrast has limited window to Indian Ocean, almost a land locked.  

Despite of the above, these two east African countries share bilateral agreements on economic development and security, which would indeed benefit much from normalized relation, if not full cooperation, for their mutual interest.

According to the last census, 2.4 million Somalis are in Kenyan including residents who have lived in Kenya since the colonial time and others who moved there following the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991. A rapidly growing section of the capital city of Nairobi is predominately resided by Somali and their booming businesses. Likewise Somalia serves a market platform for provisional services and supplies from Kenya. A growing number of Kenyan professionals work inside Somalia as teacher, doctors, engineers as well as United Nations and international organizations employees. Authorities of the nations will surely  need to find a lasting solution sooner or later, for their common good and that of their neighboring communities with or without external intervention.

Mohamoud Yusuf
Email: [email protected]


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