Kenya-Somalia crisis takes a new twist

Kenya and Somalia have been at loggerheads for the longest of times. The most recent was seen when Somalia barred its officials from attending any meetings hosted in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The Somali government action was because the Kenyan government denied three senior Somali government officials entry visas despite holding diplomatic passports.

It seems as though both countries are taking turns at undoing each other as they cannot reach a favourable agreement over potential offshore oil deposits. Their rift is stifling the diplomatic relations between both countries, becoming a threat to stability and peace in the Horn of Africa.

Prior to this weekend, the Somali government had said it is not ready to take any action that could threaten its relationship with its neighbour Kenya. However, this weekend, in what seems like a change of heart, the country’s Ministry of Health and Human Resources wrote to the United Nations agencies and donors asking them to reschedule any meetings that were to be held in Nairobi.

“Due to recent travel issues to Nairobi, Kenya, the ministry informs all partners that representatives from the ministry will not be able to attend all planned and upcoming meetings, workshops, seminars and training to be held in Nairobi. The ministry highly encourages those events to be held inside the country or be held at alternative countries for ease of travel to ministry representatives,” said Abdullahi Hashi Ali, the director-general at the Ministry of Health and Human Resources.

The Somalia government has also given Non-Government Organisations (NGO) operating in Kenya one month’s notice to relocate their centres to Somalia or be barred from serving in Kenya. NGOs like World Vision, Save the Children and Red Cross used to run administration work in Somalia from Nairobi but these organisations and others have since relocated their Somalia offices to Mogadishu after Somalia cabinet issued requiring that NGO’s offices must be inside Somalia.

The ongoing dispute between the two countries began in 1979 over which country controls the 100,000 square kilometres of Indian Ocean believed to hold oil and gas deposits. Somalia was said to have agreed the land belonged to Kenya, however, in 2014, Somalia filed a complaint against Kenya in the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, saying it had exhausted all other avenues of finding a solution to the dispute.

In 2017, Kenya filed a counter-memorial, arguing that Somalia’s claim was contrary to the two states’ 35-year tradition that the maritime boundary ought to run along a parallel of latitude rather than the equidistant line that Somalia has now claimed.

Kenya recently closed the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab refugee camp, home to 230,000 people, the majority of whom are Somalis because it believes that the Al-Shabaab militant group are recruiting Somalians from Dadaab. The country also plans to resume stringent measures for Somali aircraft, step up engagements with Somali federal states, and tactically withdraw its forces from liberated areas in Somalia.

By February 2019, Kenyan officials alleged that Somalia is engaged in an inappropriate auctioning of drilling rights along the African coast of the Ocean and the International Court of Arbitration scheduled procedures for September 2019.

Before the rift between the two countries turns into a full-blown war, the two countries have to reach an amicable solution that will be beneficial to both countries to avoid undermining the prospects of lasting regional peace.