Somalia threatens to leave bloc over Kenya dispute

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed at State House, Nairobi on March 23, 2017. 

Photo credit: File | PSCU

Somalia on Wednesday threatened to withdraw from a regional bloc after the group ruled in favour of Kenya in a diplomatic row between the two countries.

A fact-finding mission was created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) last month seeking, in an intervention aimed at easing tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

On December 15, Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Kenya and wrote to the regional bloc of eight members, demanding an independent mission to verify claims that Kenya was arming and training militia to fight the Somalia National Army forces stationed in Gedo near their common border.

Led by Djiboutian Ambassador to Kenya Yacin Elmi Bouh and his counterpart to Somalia Aden Hassan Aden, the team that also included an Igad observer, said they had found no evidence supporting violations by Kenya.

On Wednesday, Mohamed Abdirazak, the Somalia Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister said his country will reject the report “in its entirety” because it the investigators had been “biased, partisan, unfair, compromised and predetermined to exonerate Kenya.”

“Somalia strongly holds to all its initial accusations against Kenya and will pursue all means to protect her sovereignty,” Abdirazak said in a statement, threatening that his country will withdraw from Igad.

The report criticised Somalia for severing ties with Kenya, arguing the historical problems faced by the two countries could only be solved through deeper diplomatic engagements.

The team visited Mogadishu, Nairobi and Mandera, but did not visit Gedo on the border with Kenya where fighting had been reported between the SNA and Jubbaland regional forces under Abdirashid Janan, who Mogadishu considers a fugitive.

For its part, Kenya rejected all accusations by Somalia, including that the Kenya Defence Forces serving in the African Union Mission had been abandoning their liberated bases to Al-Shabaab, as well as continual violation of Somali airspace.

Kenya said on Wednesday that it feels vindicated.

The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the findings of the team were proof that Somalia’s claims were a political ploy meant to distract the region from security issues.

“The report of the fact-finding mission affirms the fact that the allegations by Somalia against Kenya are wholly unfounded,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry further said, “The impartial report definitively settles the matter, Kenya will not be drawn into the reckless campaign whose sole intent remains the creation of artificial fissures for parochial and domestic ends at the expense of regional peace and security and regional integration.”

The fact-finding mission said there was insufficient evidence to show Kenya was hosting Somali militia and said Amisom, which regulates the movement of troops serving under the mission, had not indicated KDF unapproved movement.

The envoys said they found that Janan’s troops were based inside Somalia under the command of the Jubbaland forces, rather than an outside entity.

The commission suggested Janan’s forces had been ‘deposed’ by the federal forces following their deployment to Gedo last year and a continual disagreement with Jubbaland on the existence of national forces in Gedo.

However, the team said this arrangement had no anomaly as Somalia’s nascent security architecture has since May 2017 accepted the existence of regional armies alongside the police, to strengthen battle against Al-Shabaab.