Three Somali officials with diplomatic passports were denied entry at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi, on Monday in an apparent escalation of standoff between Kenya and its neighbour.
A Somalia-based radio station Dalsan FM identified the three as Osman Liban (Deputy Minister of Water and Energy) and senators Ilyas Ali Hassan and Zamzam Dahir.
The three flew back to Mogadishu yesterday morning from JKIA where they had spent the night.
The development comes two weeks after Kenya ordered all flights originating from Somalia to pass through Wajir airport for security checks.
This has been interpreted as escalation of the diplomatic standoff over the maritime boundary dispute between the two nations and Kenya’s displeasure at the reported sale by Somalia of oil blocks in the contested area.
Liban is said to have travelled to Kenya to attend the launch of the EU Trust Fund for Africa programme, dubbed “Collaboration in Cross Border Areas of the Horn of Africa”, to be opened at the United Nations office in Nairobi on Tuesday.
A programme of the event indicated Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma was among those expected to address delegates yesterday afternoon.
Dr Juma was set to address the media on the issue and other matters at her office on Tuesday.
Some of the Somali delegates, who hold dual citizenship, were allowed into the country after producing other passports.
Gamal Hassan (Planning Minister), Abdi Said (National adviser) and Fawziya Abikar (Health Minister) were reportedly allowed into the country as they hold a Canadian and European passports respectively.
The Somali officials vowed not to attend the event without the deputy minister.
At the airport, the affected officials were asked to go back to Mogadishu and pass through the Kenyan embassy for visa approval before coming to Nairobi.
“They know the rules and they have not changed,” said an official at the airport who asked not to be named.
Juma confirmed the Somali delegates had been denied entry, citing lack of visas which is mandatory in any state.
But it is believed the maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia that is pending at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) could have fuelled the action.
Somalia denies claims that it auctioned Controversial oil and gas blocks, located in a contested maritime border in the Indian Ocean, before ICJ rules on the case.
A leaked document showed a Somali minister made a presentation at an auction in London.