Kenya security alert over MPs' suspicious Somalia trip

MPs said it was in Kenya's best interests in ensuring peace.

In Summary

• No permission to travel. They flew to Mogadishu aboard Salaamair Air Express Flight WU-751 on Saturday at around 11 am

•Detectives and police officers camped at Wilson Airport before moving to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where the flight was diverted for landing on Sunday.

MPs Mohamed Hire, Rashid Kassim, Kullow Maalim (partly hidden), Basir Abdulahi and Ahmed Kolosh upon arrival aboard Freedom Airways at JKIA.
MYSTERIOUS MISSION: MPs Mohamed Hire, Rashid Kassim, Kullow Maalim (partly hidden), Basir Abdulahi and Ahmed Kolosh upon arrival aboard Freedom Airways at JKIA.

Kenyan security agencies on Sunday were grappling with thorny questions over the 'real' intention of at least 11 MPs unauthorised trip to Somalia, the epicentre of the al Shabaab militancy.

Addressing the media, the MPs said that their trip was in the best interests of Kenya in ensuring peace in the northern region, noting that al Shabaab terrorists are based in Somalia.

The MPs are confirmed to have met with the Somali head of state, Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo, and no other person.

Mogadishu is also engaged in a territorial dispute with Nairobi that has degenerated into an ugly diplomatic row.

The MPs drawn from Northeastern with close ties to neighbouring Somalia were detained for hours and questioned after police laid a trap as they jetted back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The MPs are alleged to have held talks with the Somali National Intelligence officials over a subject or subjects that are unclear.

Their trip comes just days after the US government issued a terror alert that the al Shabaab was plotting to attack a major hotel in Nairobi, popular with tourists.

The legislators travelled to the neighbouring country on an unknown mission without the permission of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

They travelled to Mogadishu aboard Salaamair Air Express Flight WU-751 on Saturday at around 11 am.

Detectives and police officers camped at Wilson Airport before moving to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where the flight was diverted on return.

The MPs are Kullow Maalim (Banisa), Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Ibrahim Abdi (Lafey), Rashid Kassim (Wajir East) and Mohamed Hire (Lagdera).

Others are Omar Maalim (Mandera East), Bashir Abdullahi (Mandera North), Adan Haji (Mandera West), Adan Ali Sheikh (Mandera South), Mohamed Dahir (Dadaab) and Ahmed Bashane (Tarbaj).

Sources said that the MPs who were later released would be summoned to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations for further interrogation on Monday.

Secretary of Internal Security Mureithi Kangi said the legislators had not followed the procedure and protocol on travelling.

"If you are parliamentarian and visiting a foreign country you are supposed to get clearance from Foreign Affairs," Kangi said.

He said that the lawmakers had been questioned in the interests of the county and as a matter of “national security concern”.

Kangi pilled pressure on the MPs, saying the nature of the trip was suspect.

“If anyone wants to volunteer information, it must be done in an orderly manner and the process should be above board,” Kangi said.

Wajir East MP Rashid Kassim explained that they travelled to Somalia because that's where al Shabaab was funded and is based.

"We met with President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier and he challenged us and told us to go back and find any possible solution of this al Shababa issue," he explained.

Kassim further said the leaders requested the head of state to assist in terms of security, especially on the borders.

“You are fully aware that over the past few months schools have been closed and non-locals have left the region. It is our responsibility as leader to provide direction in terms of security and peace in our region,” he said.

The aircraft carrying the 11 Northeastern MPs landed at the airport at around 2pm.

Awaiting them were military intelligence officials and the airport security team led by Airport police commandant Titus Ndungu.

Other GSU officers and a canine unit were stationed outside the International arrivals Terminal 2.

Their arrival was marred with confusion as to where their plane would land as police camped at Wilson before moving to JKIA.

The MPs allegedly departed to Mogadishu aboard Salaamir Air Express flight WU- 751 on February 29.

Kenya is reportedly supporting Madobe and has been sending delegations to Farmajo, who is opposed to Madobe, to reconsider his position.

The reports the MPs met Somali National Army could be endorsing Farmajo’s position and could explain the government move to outlaw their trip.

Kenya and Somalia have had frosty relations for decades and the latest development could widen the cracks.

Last year, Kenyan authorities reportedly launched investigations into how Somalia’s deputy head of intelligence Ahmed Dahir, Farmajo’s confidant, acquired Somali and Kenyan passports.

Farmajo was the only regional president who skipped former President Daniel Moi’s burial last month, perhaps signalling the rift between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

Last September, the Kenyan government banned direct flights from Kismayu and Mogadishu, citing security reasons, but Somalia protested the move as political and unneighbourly.

This came only months after Somalia rejected an-out-of-court settlement of on a long-standing maritime territorial dispute between them.

In February last year, Kenya reacted angrily to revelations Somalia had auctioned oil and gas blocks in the disputed area.

It recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu and sent the Somali envoy back to Mogadishu over alleged auctioning of the oil and gas blocks in the disputed area.

Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau claimed that the action took place in London and accused Somalia of an affront and grabbing Kenya’s resources.

Nairobi sent Somali ambassador Mohamoud Ahmed Nur, known as Tarzan, back to his country for consultations and summoned back its own envoy to Somalia, Lt Gen (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo.

“This unparalleled affront and illegal grab at the resources of Kenya will not go unanswered and is tantamount to an act of aggression against the people of Kenya and their resources,” Macharia said.

Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014 for unlawful operations in her maritime territory.

This was despite several arbitration efforts, including one presided over by the United Nations in 2009 when they agreed on mechanisms of resolving the dispute.

Kenya challenged the jurisdiction of the ICJ to hear the case, but the court in a sitting in September 2016 rejected the plea and allowed the case to proceed to a full hearing.

The disputed area is a triangle off the Kenyan coast measuring about 100,000 square kilometres and believed io be rich in oil.

Somalia wants the maritime border to continue along the line of the land border, to the southeast. Kenya, however, wants the sea border to go in a straight line east, giving it more sea territory.

Back in 2006, Kenya introduced security policies requiring all flights from Mogadishu to first land in Wajir for security checks before heading to any other part of the country.

Nairobi was stung by threats posed by al Shabaab militants that had taken hostage most parts of Somalia.

It argued that the move was to ensure the safety of its citizens but Mogadishu protested the actions as discriminatory. Kenya lifted the ban in September 2016.

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