Kenya to reopen embassy in Somalia, diplomats free to return

Uhuru Kenyatta, Mohamed Farmaajo

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo during a past event in  Mogadishu, Somalia. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In a note sent to Mogadishu on Monday, the  Foreign Affairs ministry in Kenya also asked Somalia to go ahead and reopen its mission in Nairobi, closed in December last year.

Kenya says it is prepared to reopen the embassy in Somalia, following an invitation by Mogadishu on Saturday.

In a note sent to Mogadishu on Monday, the  Foreign Affairs ministry in Kenya also asked Somalia to go ahead and reopen its mission in Nairobi, closed in December last year.

“Kenya welcomes and acknowledges the invitation by the Federal Government of Somalia to restore diplomatic relations between Somalia and Kenya.

“Kenya will reopen its embassy in Mogadishu as soon as possible. Further, Kenya invites the ambassador of the federal republic of Somalia back to Nairobi to resume duties."

This latest gesture means the two countries have gone back to normal relations, even though they must resolve a number of pending issues.

Busy week

It has been a week of climb-downs from both sides. On Thursday, Kenya reopened the airspace to Somalia flights while Mogadishu said two days later that there was nothing more preventing the two sides from resuming full diplomatic relations.

A note sent to Nairobi on Saturday said Somalia had, for the second time in a month, “normalised” relations with Kenya, bringing to an end six months of diplomatic bickering between the countries.

“In the spirit of good neighbourliness, the Federal Republic of Somalia calls on the Republic of Kenya to reopen its diplomatic mission in Somalia, and the Federal Government of Somalia will reciprocally reopen its embassy in Kenya.

"The resumption of full diplomatic relations will be a positive start to the commencement of bilateral discussions between the two countries.”

The development means Kenya’s Ambassador to Somalia  Maj-Gen (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo and Somalia’s Mohamud Nur Tarzan can resume their duty stations, if the governments retain them. 

Interference claims

The two countries had been at loggerheads since December 15 last year when Mogadishu abruptly cut ties, blaming Kenya for what it called “constant interference” in Somalia’s internal Affairs.

Kenya rejected the claims and a team formed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) to investigate the matter returned a ‘no guilty’ verdict, which Somalia rejected.

In May, Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani helped broker talks during which Somalia initially agreed to resume ties. But after Somali authorities detained Bluebird Aviation aircraft, Kenya closed the airspace between the two countries.

ICJ case

With resumed ties, Kenya indicated last week that the two sides should resume trade, travel and other bilateral issues. There are pending items between them, including the maritime dispute which is awaiting a final verdict at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Although ICJ's decision cannot be appealed, the feeling in Nairobi, even before the case proceeded, was that the maritime issue should be resolved through dialogue, rather than the courts.

In March, Kenya refused to take part in the final oral hearings, accusing the court of bias.

Trade talks

The two countries must also complete discussions on trade issues such as Somalia’s ban on Kenyan miraa, Kenya’s request to have Kenya Airways flights to Mogadishu and Hargeisa and the enduring issue of refugees at Dadaab camp which a majority of refugees from Somalia.

Last month, Kenya and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR agreed to stagger the closure of Dadaab and Kakuma camps, to allow for a humane departure of refugees. In the past, a tripartite agreement involving Kenya, UNHCR and Somalia lasted three years, only managing to have about 28,000 Somali refugees return to Somalia voluntarily.

Kenya had argued the camps are a security problem but the refugee laws forbid forcible return. Some of the refugees have lived in the camp for nearly three decades.

In the note to Somalia last week, Kenya's Foreign Affairs ministry said: “The government and the people of Kenya remain true partners for the peace and prosperity of Somalia and look forward to a renewal of the enduring bonds of friendship and partnership between Kenya and Somalia."

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