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Kenya needs to iron out border issues with Somalia

UREPORT
By Stephen Ochieng | October 28th 2015

Last week, Kenyan authorities submitted data evidence to the UN Commission on the ongoing Kenya-Somali border row. This follows an earlier suit filed by the Somali government at The Hague-based International Court of Justice concerning maritime boundary dispute with Kenya.

What started as a simple matter has degenerated into a complex problem, finding its way into the corridors of international courts. This has exposed deep-rooted suspicion and mistrust, which has been brewing for the last few years between the Mogadishu and Nairobi government.

Somalia has greatly benefited from Kenya’s generosity, good neighbourliness and friendship. The relative peace prevailing in Somalia today is due to Kenya’s tireless and unrelenting efforts.

Apart from sharing a common border, the two countries share the Somali ethnic groups whose local language is Somali. Kenya has hosted thousands of Somali refugees for decades in Ifo and Dadaab refugee camps. Kenya, on the other hand, has benefited from export of miraa to Somalia.

So what might be the possible causes of this deep mistrust despite a show of friendship and mutual respect whenever the two presidents meet?

First, could Kenya have erred by involving itself in Jubaland State politics immediately after the liberation of Kismayu from Al Shabaab? Mogadishu government had earlier accused Kenyan authorities of meddling in the Jubaland politics and being pro-Gen Ahmed Mohamed Islam popularly known as Gen Madobe who led a different faction that fought alongside KDF in the liberation of Kismayu.

The Mogadishu government said they had the final say on who was going to be the Jubaland President and not ‘outsiders’. In fact the relationship got sour to the level that the Somali government demanded the immediate withdrawal of KDF from Kismayu and its place be taken over by a neutral force.

Secondly, the shocking revelation by the UN Monitoring for Somalia and Eritrea that Kenya’s troops in Somalia are deeply involved in the illegal charcoal trade which was banned by the UN in 2012 may have complicated the already deteriorating relations. This report was released last year and prepared for UN Security Council. These allegations were vehemently denied by the Kenyan government.

Thirdly, the earlier decision by the Jubilee Government to repatriate all the Somali refugees living in Dadaab and Ifo camps and subsequently close these camps could have angered the Somali government. The government alleged that the camps harbour terrorists and are therefore used to plan and launch attacks in Kenyan towns. This was after the Mandera and Garissa University terrorist attacks.

The plan elicited sharp reactions from both the International community and the Somali government, which opposed the move and suggested that the refugees be left to voluntarily return to their country.

Lastly, Somalia has on several occasions protested against the ongoing construction of a boundary wall on the 860km long border by the Kenyan government. The wall, according to the Kenyan government, is to act as a barrier to terrorists. The Mogadishu government has complained of not being consulted on this mega project yet it is going to affect its people negatively.

Either way the ruling goes concerning the maritime boundary dispute, the two countries will still have deep mistrust.

The differences have the potential of escalating into a full blown war if not checked.

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