Somalia Monday suspended its visa on arrival policy for Kenyan citizens citing the Covid-19 pandemic but escalating diplomatic tension with Nairobi.
Relations between Kenya and her eastern neighbour have been frosty over a maritime boundary whose contested geometrical progression from the hinterland could have either country lose or gain an oil-rich Indian continental shelf.
Kenyans travelling into Somalia will have to obtain a visa from Somali embassies, the country's Directorate of Immigration and Nationalisation said in a statement.
Kenyan diplomatic passport holders will have to get clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mogadishu added.
The directive takes effect from Sunday, December 13, 2020.
This, the directorate said, is "in line with the federal government's policy of ensuring security, improving migration management and reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection."
"Any traveller with Kenyan passport that does not adhere to the above policy will be denied entry," added the terse notice.
The visa suspension follows last week's decision by Somalia to expel Kenya's ambassador and recall hers from Nairobi over "continuous" interference in its internal affairs.
Mogadishu held that Nairobi is meddling in its upcoming elections by putting pressure on the regional president of Jubaland, Ahmed Mohamed Islaam Madobe, to walk back on a poll agreement brokered two months ago.
Madobe — a dissident leader of the semi-autonomous state — enjoys a close relationship with Nairobi, something President Mohamed Abdullahi — popularly known as Farmajo — is bitterly opposed to.
Kenya has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the claims as "unsubstantiated allegations".
"Somalia expresses its regrets in the government of Kenya's overt and blatant interferences in the internal and political affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia which has the potential to be a hindrance to the stability, security and development of the entire region," Somali Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Amb. Mohamed Ali-Nur Haji said on Sunday.
"This action is reportedly based on unsubstantiated allegations, namely, 'continued interference in the internal affairs of Somalia',' he added.
In a rejoinder, Kenya said it "respects and upholds the cardinal international principles of self-determination, sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, and in particular those in Africa."
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It added that "It is incumbent that all political actors in Somalia to stay true to their political commitments, avoid distracting actions, but rather engage constructively to ensure timely implementation of the elections calendar".
It was the second time within two years that the two neighbours were recalling their envoys.
In February 2019, Kenya recalled her ambassador Maj. Gen (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo after Mogadishu auctioned the contested oil and gas exploration blocks. Ties were restored in November last year.
In mid-March this year, Somalia suspended khat trading as part of measures to the contain spread of Covid-19 thus starving Kenya of nearly Sh16 million daily revenue from the export of the stimulant.
The maritime dispute is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).