Somalia bars officials from Nairobi meetings


Somalia President Mohammed Farmaajo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The ongoing tiff between Kenya and Somalia has taken a new turn after Mogadishu barred its officials from attending any meetings hosted in Nairobi to protest last week's visa denials.

The Somalia government has also given NGOs operating in the country one month's notice to relocate their centres to Somalia or be barred from serving there.

Mogadishu's latest move came after three senior government officials were denied entry visas in Nairobi despite holding diplomatic passports.

On Sunday, Somalia's Ministry of Health and Human Resources wrote to UN agencies and donors asking them to reschedule any meetings that were to be held in Nairobi.

"Due to recent travel issues to Nairobi, Kenya, the ministry informs all partners that representatives from the ministry will not be able to attend all planned and upcoming meetings, workshops, seminars and trainings to be held in Nairobi.The ministry highly encourages those events to be held inside the country or be held at alternative countries for ease of travel to ministry representatives," said Abdullahi Hashi Ali, the director-general at the ministry.

Somalia's move means its officials will skip the UN Habitat Assembly, which starts today in Nairobi and is to be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Somalia's Ministry of Planning also said any NGOs still running operations from Nairobi will be barred from working inside the country.

Traditionally, NGOs like World Vision, Save the Children and Red Cross used to run administration work in Somalia from Nairobi as the country battled security challenges.

But these organisations and others have since relocated their Somalia offices to Mogadishu.

In October last year, the Somalia cabinet issued a directive to solidify management of non-govermental agencies by requiring that their offices be inside Somalia.

The new order from the Planning ministry came in the wake of the dispute with Kenya. The ministry did not elaborate which NGOs were still operating outside Somalia, but indicated that some of the agencies were running Somalia affairs from Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Last week, the Somalia government formally wrote to Kenya to protest what it termed the detention and deportation of officials in a delegation to Nairobi for lack of visas.

Mr Ahmed Isse Awad, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said the move “contravenes the neighbourly bond” between the two countries, saying there exists bilateral arrangements for the privileges to remain.

“The Government of Somalia therefore calls on the Government of Kenya to consider the potentially destablising impact of these actions and to uphold the longstanding relations between our two nations as well as diplomatic norms in the spirit of reciprocity and mutual respect,” he said in the official letter on Wednesday last week.

Three Somali officials, part of a delegation coming to attend an EU-sponsored cross-border conflict management programme, were refused entry at the airport.

Immigration officials said junior Minister of Water and Energy Osman Liban and legislators Ilyas Ali Hassan and Zamzam Dahir, all had diplomatic passports but had not obtained visas at the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu.