DIPLOMACY

Change of heart needed as Somalia, Kenya are joined at the hip

Mogadishu's actions should have been different, had it considered the Somali population in Kenya

In Summary

• Both governments should keep hardliners and hate mongering strategists from developing their foreign policies towards each another

• Instead, they should engage their genuine citizenry, who would put the interest of the two countries and their people before anything.

President Uhuru Kenyatta receives new Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi at the start of his state visit as Kenya Defence Forces chief Samson Mwathethe looks on, March 23, 2017
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives new Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi at the start of his state visit as Kenya Defence Forces chief Samson Mwathethe looks on, March 23, 2017
Image: PSCU

In a recent interview with a local TV station, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo almost described Kenya as an enemy state.

The question is where do the Somalis, who are now part and parcel of Kenyan population, fit into that description. Also, is Farmaajo is cognizant to the fact that his own brothers and sisters, who live on the other side of the border, will be by de facto — intentionally or unintentionally — be included in that category?

The same applies when Somalia speaks of cutting diplomatic ties with Kenya, which also means cutting the Somali population inside Kenya, who share a long border with Somalia.

Mogadishu’s move to stop khat trade between Kenya and Somalia also hurts the Somali businessmen in Kenya, the same way it hurts the Ameru community, and the Kenyan government. This is because they are also involved in all the steps of the trade, from transportation, to its sale in Somalia.

The actions of the Somalia government should have been a lot more different, if it had considered the Somali population in Kenya before taking any drastic move against Nairobi.

The Kenyan government is even worse than Somalia, when it comes to ignoring its own Somali population in making major decisions on Mogadishu.

Until recently, Kenya has been hosting former Jubaland security minister, Abdirashid Janan against the will of area residents and leaders.

Janan posed a serious security threat to the Somali population in Mandera because his war on Beledhawo always spilled over to the Kenyan side.

Janan later betrayed Kenya and deserted its ally, Jubaland’s president Ahmed Madobe, and joined hands with Farmajo in Mogadishu.

The hosting of Janan by Kenya against the wishes of its own population in the area can be regarded as utter contempt and disrespect, which could only lead to mistrust.

Both the Somali and Kenyan governments should keep hardliners and hate mongering strategists from developing their foreign policies towards each another, and engage their genuine citizenry, who would put the interest of the two countries and their people before anything.

Differences between the two states should be solved soberly, and when that is not possible, they should seek support from friendly countries and institutions. But they should always draft their strategies while putting the Somali population (rightful citizens in Kenya, and blood brothers to Somalia) into the equation.

Abdullahi Abdi Sheikh is a Ph.D. candidate and political strategist and communication expert. He is formerly head of BBC Somali Service [email protected]