Kenya-Somalia spat, a threat to regional stability & counter-terrorism efforts

The ensuing diplomatic row between Kenya and Somalia is counter-productive to the region’s stability and the war against terrorism.

This is the verdict of security and diplomatic experts who are calling for an urgent cessation of hostility between the two neighbours.

Speaking during a forum called to deliberate the escalating bad blood between Nairobi and Mogadishu, the experts were in agreement that the obtaining situation could undermine gains made over the years, especially in getting the Horn of African country back on its feet.

“Severing of relations between Kenya and Somalia or Ethiopia and Somalia might see Al-Shabaab getting bolder and intensifying their assault in Kenya or Ethiopia in support of Mogadishu.” The HORN Institute senior advisor on defense and security Brig. Gen (Rtd) Ahamed Mohammed cautioned

These views were corroborated by the International Institute for Strategic Studies Chairman Mustafa Ali who argues that by appearing to malign Kenya, Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is treading on dangerous ground.

“The current stand in Mogadishu is undermining the ongoing counter-terrorism mission operations and groups like Al Shabaab obviously prefer tense relations between the two countries so that they can do what they want to do. Terrorist groups thrive in anarchy.” He warned

In the latest installment of diplomatic dispute, Mogadishu has kicked out Kenyan diplomats from its territory while recalling her own from Nairobi, citing Kenya’s ‘meddling in its internal affairs’ as the reason behind the unprecedented move.

According to observers who have been keenly following these events, this is far from the truth. In their opinion, the problem lies in the upcoming elections in Somalia and that the incumbent Farmajo is only using Kenya to build his case and popularity at home.

“This behavior from Mogadishu is all about the election. There are a lot of problems within Somalia and Farmajo is trying to externalize the challenges that he is facing so that he can get some votes. Unfortunately, this is creating problems with Kenya.” Ali remarked.

This view is also shared by Brig. Gen (Rtd) Mohammed who says “Kenya has no issue with Somalia and vice versa. Farmajo is doing this to win the next election. Kenya has not in any way influenced events in Somalia.”

“Farmajo wants to capture the hearts and minds of the Somali people. To unite the nation he wants to make Kenya an enemy.” Southlinks Senior consultant Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad observed.

But, these actions according to Ambassador Zaddock Syong’oh amount to a lack of gratitude and thoughtlessness given that Kenya has sacrificed a lot to help restore peace in Somalia. He recalled how Somalia’s once interim regime was established in Nairobi before being transferred to Mogadishu.

“Many sacrifices have gone into helping transform Somalia from a collapsed/failed state into a functioning nation-state governed by the rule of law.” Amb. Syong’o said

The policy analyst wondered why high-ranking Somali government officials are quick to make pronouncements, such as the expulsion of diplomats, when they also call Kenya their home. He insists that Kenya has been a good friend and neighbour to Somalia.

“Kenya has been lenient with Somalia; they say a lot of bad things about Kenya and still take a flight to Kenya. They can’t do that with Ethiopia.” Amb. Syong’oh charged.

Experts hold the view that it is in the best interest of Somalia to maintain good diplomatic relations with Kenya, Ethiopia, and other neighboring countries.

“Warlords had taken control and managed large swathes of Somalia territory and the populations thereof. The reality is that Al Shabaab collects more tax revenue in Somalia than the federal government does.” The policy analyst disclosed

Amid this unfriendly gesture from Somalia, the Kenyan government officials have maintained a low profile and are yet to comment on the matter. This according to the United States International University Professor of History and International relations Macharia Munene is a good move.

He notes that in the art of diplomacy, one must weigh the options and then decide what is in the best interest of the country.

“So far Somalia’s misbehavior, I think, the Kenyan officialdom does not consider it to be that serious. This is because Somalia is yet to communicate its position officially. It is just speaking through the media. Prudence means Kenya cannot rush to make a decision.” Prof Munene observed

Like his colleagues, Prof Munene believes President Farmajo is scared of losing the election and is therefore looking for a major scapegoat. He says Farmajo will continue to blame Kenya for everything just so he can get re-elected.

He was however quick to point out that if the standoff continues after the election, it will be treated as a more serious matter.

The experts want Mogadishu to guard against any form of provocation to nations contributing forces to AMISOM, Kenya being one, as they occupy very strategic positions in the country and that it will be a very challenging, and almost impossible task for Somalia to find new troops to fill their position.


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