Ruling: Of Somalia’s perceptions on Kenya as 'arrogant' Big Brother

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in Mogadishu, Somalia. Febraury 2017. [PSCU]

Tuesday’s ruling of the maritime border dispute between Kenya and Somalia could not have come at a more apt time for citizens of the Horn of African nation.

The judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), found the Somalis in the middle of celebrations marking the National Flag Day and the news from The Hague suddenly accelerated the merriment to a new peak late into the evening. 

This mood is best captured by Somalia’s Attorney General, Suleiman Mohamed Mohamud, who led his government’s delegation to The Hague for Tuesday’s ruling. He said the favourable judgment was a perfect gift to commemorate National Flag Day.

“Sixty-seven years ago (October 12th 1954), the Somali flag was hoisted. Also, today, October 12th, we are proud to secure our maritime rights. It is a lasting victory and independence for the Somali community,” said the AG in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The ruling by the United Nations’ top court, which trashed most of Kenya’s claims to the area in dispute in the Indian Ocean believed to be rich in oil and gas, largely ruled in favour of Somalia.

A number of Somali nationals within the country and in the Diaspora, took to social media to hail the ICJ and celebrate the development.

Most of the papers, including the leading online publications, Goobjoog News and Hiiraan Online, similarly led with the headlines, “Somalia wins against Kenya in maritime case” and “ICJ rules overwhelmingly in Somalia’s favour in landmark maritime”, all proclaiming Somalia’s victory over Kenya.

And President Mohamed Farmaajo was more categorical in his address to the nation on Tuesday night that Kenya was responsible of his country’s woes. Hiding behind the celebrations, the Somali leader made lethal accusations against the neighbouring Kenyan government, some clearly bordering on subversion.   

ICJ largely ruled in favour of Somalia. [Courtesy]

Kenya, claimed Farmaajo, undertook measures that fall outside of political and diplomatic norms to wage a strong campaign at the United Nations to place Somalia under the UNSC 1267 resolution “which would have facilitated the labeling of Somali business community, government officials and humanitarian workers as terrorists, allow for the arbitrary confiscation and freezing of their assets and ultimately cripple the country’s economy”.

Farmaajo also claimed that barely three months after taking office in February 2017, the Kenyan leadership started to directly intervene in our country’s political process by mobilizing political groups in Kenya in order to create an atmosphere of chaos and political instability in Somalia that would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the case from the Court.

“After the failure of those pressure tactics, the Kenyan government resorted to direct violations of our sovereignty. The Kenyan government spent enormous time and resources in a campaign to politically isolate us, painting a distorted picture of our nation to our neighboring countries, the continent as a whole and to the international community,” claimed the Somali leader.

The President’s sentiments are generally a reflection of the thinking of ordinary Somali citizens, who regard Kenyans “as the conniving and manipulative” Big Brother in the region, who is allegedly keen on taking advantage of the struggling nation’s political instability.

Officers in the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) similarly consider the ICJ ruling as some kind of victory from the stranglehold of a presumed overbearing neighbour – Kenya. Somalia’s Information Minister Osman Dubbe, for instance, welcomes the ruling and congratulates Somalis on “regaining their territory and authority”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

While the Somali leader may have concerns over Kenya’s actions, his gloves-off attack at the Uhuru Kenyatta government is addling. In fact some pundits believe the maritime border dispute may have given the President opportunity to whip up national emotions and rally the country politically behind him.

This trick is not new to the astute politician, who boasts of a Masters Degree in International Relations.

In 2019, for instance, when faced with internal insurgence from the Federal Member States (FMS) after they vowed to pull away from the central government, Farmaajo turned his sword on outside forces accusing them of undermining “the people’s government.” 

He specifically singled out the United Nation’s Special Representative in Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, quickly grabbing the opportunity to affirm to the Somali community as well as the international community, that Somalia was serious about guarding her sovereignty.