Uhuru hosts Somaliland leader amidst tension
By Roselyne Obala
| December 14th 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta is hosting his Somaliland counterpart Muse Bihi Abdi amidst worsening relations with Somalia.
The visit by the leader of the self-declared country seeks to give Kenya a platform through which Nairobi can have presence in Hargeisa, as it has no diplomatic presence in Somaliland.
President Abdi jetted into the country for a three-day state visit yesterday and was received by Agriculture CS Peter Munya and Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba.
This visit comes after Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, imposed restrictions on Kenyans hoping to travel to the country. At the same time, there has been a maritime dispute that saw Somalia file a case against Kenta at the International Court of Justice in 2014.
Mogadishu has accused Nairobi of meddling in its upcoming elections by allegedly putting pressure on the leader of Jubaland region, Ahmed Mohamed Islaam Madobe, to pull out of poll agreement brokered two months ago.
Mogadishu expelled Kenya’s diplomat to Somalia Maj Gen (rtd) Lucas Tambo and recalled its ambassador to Kenya, Mohamud Ahmed Nur ‘Tarzan’, over claims of Nairobi's continuous interference in its internal affairs.
“President Kenyatta, on Monday, is scheduled to host President of Somaliland for talks on mutual interests and discuss diaspora issues as they seek to deepen trade ties,” reads a press release by the Foreign Affairs ministry.
Uhuru, according to the ministry’s brief, will be seeking stronger relations between the two countries to bolster security, economic and social interactions.
“Somaliland is an important partner in the Horn of Africa region in the fight against terrorism and particularly Al-Shabaab,” the statement read.
“Kenya has no diplomatic presence is Somaliland, but takes cognizance of the political and economic stability of the region and is keen to enhance and broaden trade in goods and services, as well as investment as the cornerstone for long-term development cooperation with the region.”
The ministry also disclosed that Uhuru would be seeking intensified cooperation in banking and financial sector to accelerate investment opportunities for both parties. Kenya Airways flights connecting Nairobi and Hargeisa to enhance trade and movement is carefully being explored, the statement said.
Other issues on the table include information sharing on security, particularly in countering terrorism in the Horn of Africa. “Kenya and Somaliland will work together to actualise these aspirations,” the statement read.
This is the first official visit to Nairobi by President Abdi since he took over Somaliland in 2017, and the second by a Somaliland leader following a similar one by President Kahin Riyale Kahin in 2009.
Such differences are not new to Kenya. Tanzania cancelled landing rights for three Kenyan airlines — Kenya Airways, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation — after Kenya insisted Tanzanians arriving in the country had to be quarantined for 14 days.
The actions by the two countries have recently stalled business ventures for Kenyans over 'bad' policies by Nairobi.
While receiving President Abdi together with his delegation, which includes members of the Cabinet, Munya said today's talks between the two leaders would be of mutual interest.
Somaliland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said President Abdi left Hargeisa on Sunday and would meet Kenyan officials for bilateral talks.
Somalia has had issues with Kenya over miraa (khat) export. The country has since banned Kenyan miraa from its market.
The matter resurfaced last week after a delegation of farmers’ representatives travelled to seek audience with Somalia officials. However, they were met with a list of demands, including a tax charge of $4 per kilo.
The farmers were also told to report to the Kenyan authorities that they would only be allowed to sell miraa in Somalia if flights from Mogadishu are not forced to stop in Wajir for security checks.
Somalia officials say Kenya should treat their country as an equal partner.
In 2016, Mr Munya, then Meru Governor, caused a diplomatic storm after he 'offered recognition’ of Somaliland if they were assured a steady miraa market.
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