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Economy

Somalia protests Nairobi move to deport officials

 Monica Juma
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Somalia government has formally written to Kenya to protest what it called detention and deportation of officials in a delegation to Nairobi for lack of visas.

On Wednesday, 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 commonly known as note verbale on Wednesday.

He was also referring to another restriction that demands aircraft from Mogadishu to undergo further security checks at Wajir airport before proceeding to Nairobi.

On Monday evening, three Somali officials, part of a delegation coming to attend the EU-sponsored cross-border conflict management programme, were refused entry at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

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

They were held at the airport and later boarded a flight back to Mogadishu on Tuesday morning. In turn, the Somali delegation that had been allowed in on foreign passports boycotted the EU event at the UN Office in Gigiri on Tuesday afternoon.

Traditionally, top government officials on official duty are allowed visas on arrival, based on a bilateral agreement signed between the two sides in 2016.

Kenya has, however, changed the rule and officials must get visas at Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu. The uneasy relationship between the two nations erupted in the open in February when Nairobi recalled its ambassador to Somalia after the Mogadishu government’s decision to auction oil and gas exploration blocks at the centre of a maritime territorial dispute in the Indian Ocean.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is considering a dispute on their maritime boundaries brought by Somalia in 2014 after negotiations over the 100,000 sq. km stretch of sea floor broke down.

The contested maritime sea floor is believed to host old and gas deposits.

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