Kenya has been sucked into a row between Somalia and Jubaland. Somalia authorities accuse Kenya of siding with Jubaland and fuelling the crisis in the Gedo region. Jubaland Minister Abdirashid Abdinur, being sought by Somalia after escaping from a Somalia jail, is said to be hiding in Kenya. But Kenya has denied the allegations.
In a complete breach of international protocols, Somalia and Jubaland forces engaged each other on the Kenyan side of Mandera town on Monday this week. One person was killed while 11 were injured. By whatever yardstick, that was uncalled for aggression and provocation. Indeed, the violation of our territorial integrity resulted in President Uhuru Kenyatta chairing a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday this week, the clearest indicator that the government did not take this aggression lightly.
Notwithstanding that Somalia owes its delicate stability to tireless efforts by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the African Mission in Somalia troops, it has turned against Kenya first, by taking it to the International Court of Justice over disputed ownership of an oil and gas block in the Indian Ocean, and now blames its fight with Jubaland on KDF.
KDF soldiers moved into Somalia in 2011 in pursuit of Al Shabaab militia who had abducted tourists on the Kenyan side of Mandera. The presence of 3,000 Kenyan troops in Somalia has helped the troubled African nation restrict the activities of Al Shabaab militia, who before then had complete run of Mogadishu town, the seat of government.
The relationship between Kenya and Somalia has been lukewarm for some time despite Somalia benefiting more from it. A demonstration of mistrust between the neighbouring states manifested when Kenya banned direct flights from Somalia over security concerns in May 2019. Somalia retaliated by barring its officials from attending international meetings in Nairobi.
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It is in the interest of regional peace that Kenya and Somalia sort out their differences amicably. This, however, cannot be at the expense of our national security. Somalia has its plate full and should deal with its myriad internal problems, among them Al Shabaab, without finding fault with neighbours who have stood with it since it degenerated into anarchy in 1990 following the overthrow of President Siad Barre.
Al Shabaab militia operating from Somalia have caused a lot of damage and despondency in Kenya through terrorist attacks. The Kenyan government must act firmly to ensure Somalia government does not join Al Shabaab in making Kenyans’ lives nightmarish. Somalia must be made to realise that bringing the war to Mandera was a big mistake that should never happen again.