MOGADISHU, 19 January 2021 – Djibouti has ramped up mediation in the diplomatic row between Kenya and Somalia, officials in the capital, Djibouti City, confirmed Tuesday.
The Djiboutian diplomatic and military delegation completed a fact-finding mission to Kenya and Somalia last week, focused on resolving accusations of territorial violations, and is currently finalizing its report.
Djibouti’s President Ismael Guelleh dispatched the mission after Mogadishu accused Nairobi of meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia.
Kenyan media reported Tuesday that Nairobi awaits publication of the mission’s findings in order to rebut Somalia’s accusations.
The Kenyan government says the accusations are without merit and has made counter accusations.
Nairobi says it provided satellite images to the delegation, showing Somali troop movements.
Over the last eight months, Somali forces have allegedly moved within just about 20 meters of Kenya’s common border with Somalia.
The Somali government has also accused Kenya of violating Somali airspace and maritime territorial waters, as well as of supporting armed militia in the destabilization of Somalia.
On the maritime case, Somalia has brought the matter before the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
Mogadishu alleges that Kenyan soldiers serving as part of the African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia have abandoned their stations, allowing al-Shabab terrorists freedom to regroup and attack.
Members of an association of Kenyan widows of the peacekeeping mission in Somalia have taken very unkindly to the accusations, accusing Mogadishu of showing no appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones.
No fewer than 170 Kenyan military personnel deployed to Somalia have been killed in attacks by al-Shabab militants, according to the most updated data published on 29 October 2020.
The mediation was mandated by the 38th Heads of State Summit of the Djibouti-based Horn of Africa economic bloc known as IGAD (Inter-Governmental Agency for Development).
While the report of the mission will not be binding on the two countries, it is expected to help de-escalate tension between the two countries.
Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Kenya last December 15 shortly after Nairobi announced plans that it plans to open a consulate in the breakaway Republic of Somaliland.
Mogadishu insists that Nairobi is guilty of “constant interference” in the internal affairs of Somalia.
The former United Nations Protectorate of Somaliland, situated on coast of the Gulf of Aden, became fully independent from British rule on 26 June 1960.
Somaliland won the recognition from 35 countries around the world, including the United States.
However, the next day after becoming fully independent, Somaliland’s legislature passed a law authorizing the formation of a loose confederation with Somalia.
The confederation very quickly became one of Africa’s most brutal dictatorships under Said Barre.
On 18 May 1991, following the overthrow of Siad Barre, Somaliland declared the restoration of its independence and began the process of seeking recognition as a sovereign country.
The international community has not recognized Somaliland, preferring to support the stabilization of the government in Mogadishu.
The decision by Kenya to establish a consulate in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, was seen by Somalia as a “dangerous first step down a slippery diplomatic slope” which would end up by the recognition of Somaliland as an independent African country.
Mogadishu insists that Somaliland and another breakaway republic known as Puntland remain part of the “one and indivisible Somalia”.
In July 2019, Somalia cut diplomatic relations with Guinea after the president of Somaliland received red carpet treatment upon arrival for a visit to Conakry, capital of the West African country.
Mogadishu described the 2019 decision on Guinea as a warning to any other country that may be tempted to violate the “territorial integrity of Somalia”.
Somaliland has told IGAD that any decision by the sub-regional bloc that fails to reaffirm the restoration of the independence of Somaliland will be rejected by Hargeisa.
Without the authority to issue a legally-binding ruling on the diplomatic row, the IGAD-mandated mediation could, at a minimum, “buy time for the two countries to re-engage”, commented Macharia Munene, a Kenyan professor of history and international relations, cited Tuesday by The East African newspaper.
Led by the Djiboutian ambassadors to Nairobi and Mogadishu, and accompanied by the Djiboutian Deputy Chief of Defense Staff as well as representatives from the IGAD Secretariat, the mediation team also visited the disputed Mandera-Gedo area on the common border between Kenya and Somalia.