Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Is Somalia right to sever diplomatic ties with Kenya?

By Isaac Muhammad

At the Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) currently known as ‘African Union’ (AU) 1964 in Cairo, The African Leaders declared the colonially inherited borders sacrosanct, thus transforming them into international borders. (See AHG/Res. 16 (1) of Resolutions adopted by the first Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Cairo, UAR, From 17 To 21 July 1964 AHG/Res. 1 (1) – AHG/Res. 24 (1)).

Presidents Uhuru and Bihi

In January 2012, an uprising broke out in northern Mali, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA captured three main cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, which constituted the region MNLA wants to control. The MNLA afterward declared independence from the Republic of Mali, creating the State of Azawad. According to MNLA’s spokesman, Azawadians do not feel they are Malians because of injustice, neglect, and oppression against them since 1960. Their secession was rejected by the African Union, Algeria, and the former colonial power France, prompting the French army to intervene to quell the uprising.

The OAU further issued extensive resolutions condemning secession in general. The first such resolution is the Kinshasa Resolution on Biafra, in which the AU echoed its disapproval of secession in any Member States. (See OAU AHG/51 (IV) (14 September 1967). The African Union (AU) has thus also adopted strict policies against any attempted secession. (See Article 4 (b) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.) In this regard, the most elaborate declaration is in the resolution adopted by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2012 regarding the Azawad crisis.

Kenya violates the above treaties and resolutions by issuing the following official statements and entering into a pact with a region part of the borders of the Federal Republic of Somalia’s internationally recognized territory.

‘The Presidents re-affirmed their unwavering commitment to deepen the cordial bilateral relations between Kenya and Somaliland.’ ‘During their discussions, the leaders focused their attention on expansion of bilateral trade, enhancing collaboration in air transport including enabling direct flights between Nairobi and Hargeisa, as well as cooperating in Agriculture, Livestock development, Education, Energy and cooperation between the ports of Mombasa and Berbera.’

‘Senior officials on a pre-determined list and travelling to Kenya on Somaliland travel documents to apply for e-visa and receive visa on arrival by end of March 2021’

Given the reception Uhuru accorded to the President of Somaliland Mr. Bihi, in response to Somalia’s protest on Kenya’s foreign policy towards Somalia, in my opinion, the Somalia government is on point. Provocations and escalations, such as inviting regional presidents to pressure the Somali President, will not help Kenya normalize Somalia’s relations. Ethiopia was masterful of such policies, and it is the policies that paralyzed Somalia for three decades, and Somalis must reject it.  Echoing other nations who have previously hosted regional presidents will not justify a continuation of such policies. If not such a strong statement, how else can the Somali government prevent others, whether in Africa or beyond, from violating our sovereignty and territorial integrity? 

While many see the action taken by the Federal Government of Somalia to sever diplomatic ties with Kenya as nothing but a campaign stunt, I see it as a historic step putting many countries on notice–that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia is sacrosanct.

Yes, Kenya and Somalia are interconnected, and the countries have a mutual interest in keeping friendly and brotherly relations. Yes, there are Somalis who live and work in Kenya, and yes, Kenya hosts almost half a million Somali refugees while nearly a hundred thousand Kenyans are working in Somalia. However, national interest supersedes all these factors. Therefore, each side must respect the other for such relations to exist and thrive.

For Somalis, they must understand the difference between a nation and its leader. There are plenty of issues in which President Farmajo can be criticized, and rightly so, but agreeing with Kenya’s response to Somalia’s complaint of interference is not one of them. If we don’t all stand against divide and rule colonial policies, Somalia as we know it will be history. No doubt Kenya’s actions will encourage other nations to follow suit, eventually causing Somalia to become little enclaves. If that is what you desire, then you’re free to shower praise to Uhuru and hope your tiny region or district becomes its own small Somalia one day.  I am not that kind of person; I stand for Somalia’s unity and sovereignty, and I will not waiver. I wonder if there are presidential candidates who possess the political will to stand against policies that are destructive to our national interest while at the same time disagreeing with President Farmajo on many other fronts?

It is too early to tell if this rift will be protracted or resolved quickly, but I hope it will inspire a clamor to respect Somalia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. I hope this creates space for dialogue of mutual interest and respect led by balanced diplomatic leadership.

Isaac Muhammad
Email:  [email protected]

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