The Kenya-Somalia border “interference” dispute is far from over as the latter last week rejected a report by the Djibouti-led fact finding mission exonerating Kenya, calling it biased.
There is concern now that this rejection has exposed the common border regions to possible attacks by al-Shabaab as the tiff between Nairobi and Mogadishu diverts attention from the terror group.
On Wednesday, a senior Kenya Defence Force (KDF) officer was killed and two others injured after their vehicle drove over an explosive device at Omar Jillo area on the Mandera-Lafey-Elwak road in northern Kenya.
Last week, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace separately met with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Somalia’s Mohamed Farmaajo, where he called for readiness for elections as one way of pacifying the country, and enhancing co-operation against al Shabaab.
“UK saw Kenya’s Good Offices with Jubbaland as crucial in convincing the region to go into elections. However imperfect, holding elections could be seen as a step forward and will sustain war on terror,” a Kenya government official told The EastAfrican.
The official was referring to Kenya’s influence on Jubbaland leader Ahmed Madobe, who has been in Nairobi since Kenya Defence Forces defeated al Shabaab in Kismayu before rehatting to the African Union Mission in Somalia.
On Monday, Somalia’s National Army, for the third time in a year, clashed with Jubbaland forces said to be commanded by fugitive Jubbaland Interior Minister Abdirashid Janan, which Somalia had claimed Kenya was arming and training.
Abukar Dubbe, the Somalia Information Minister said up to 100 fighters had ‘surrendered.’ The Djibouti team investigating the claims had found that Janan’s forces were camped inside Somalia, and not Kenya as Mogadishu had claimed.
Nairobi said the findings exonerated it, but said last week the fighting in Gedo was causing a security situation in Mandera in Kenya. Col (rtd) Cyrus Oguna, the Kenya government spokesman told journalists last Thursday that Nairobi will not accept to be roped in Somalia’s internal affair.
“We will however continue to push for peace, and therefore urge all leaders in Somalia to create an environment that will facilitate the resolution of the conflict through dialogue. This is critical in fostering a united front in countering militants who have, for a long time, destabilised peace and security in Somalia and the region.” Col (rtd) Oguna said.
James Swan, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative in Somalia on Gedo said, “We certainly share views that have been expressed by others in the region, including senior leaders from the African Union that de-escalation and restraint would be desirable along the border between Somalia and Kenya. International partners have in fact communicated over the past year on several occasions, urging restraint, urging de-escalation in Gedo, on the border, and in regard to potential regional aspects of differences in that area. In December there were concerns raised by the Somali authorities. These were then taken up at the Heads of State and Government summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. That summit meeting charged President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti with organising a fact-finding mission to examine those concerns and to return with both details and an assessment of what had happened, and also recommendations for the way forward. So we look forward to hearing from Igad on these issues. “
The deployment of Somali National Army forces in Gedo had been one of the hurdles preventing the country from holding elections. Jubbaland, which administers Gedo, had refused to nominate its officials to serve in local electoral committees unless the forces were removed.
Jubbaland and Puntland, the other state that had refused to nominate officials, have since agreed to name the teams, but called for a meeting with Farmaajo by January 30.
In a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry, Thursday, Djibouti defended the fact-finding team of diplomats and military chiefs whose report, presented on Monday, dismissed all allegations Somalia had tabled against Kenya. Djibouti then surrendered mediation back to Igad.
According to the report, there is insufficient evidence to prove Nairobi had interfered in Mogadishu’s affairs.
The Djibouti fact-finding team was seconded by Igad to investigate accusations of interference by Kenya and Somalia against each other.
The fact-finding mission visited Mandera, Nairobi and Mogadishu, and said they had no findings to show Kenya was training militia against Somalia, invaded Somali airspace or treated Jubbaland state as independent of Somalia.
Mogadishu promptly accused the team of being “partisan, unfair, compromised and predetermined.”
But Djibouti had already professed its neutrality earlier on.
“With regards to the way the mission was fulfilled, there is no doubt that it was carried out with professionalism and impartiality,” said Djibouti, adding, “The Republic of Djibouti was only driven by the sole purpose to help the two sisterly nations ease tensions between them and has adopted an unbiased approach based on strict objectivity.”
The ball is in Igad’s court, whose chairman, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, will have to call for another meeting to discuss how to resolve the issue. That may have no definite date, however, as Sudan and Ethiopia are also embroiled in a border dispute near Amhara State.