One week after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Kenya on a two-day state visit, Nairobi and Mogadishu have taken their long-running squabbles into a crisis.
Ethiopia has outsized influence in Mogadishu and helped diffuse similar tensions in 2019 but the country is currently trapped in an internal conflict in the Tigray region and a spat with the Egyptians over the Grand Renaissance dam.
Now, ahead of an early general election next year, President Mohamed Farmajo of Somalia feels that Kenya wants to influence his country’s politics through its sway over Jubaland regional government- President Ahmed Madobe and latest invitation of Muse Bihi of Somaliland, a breakaway state.
Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the Somaliland President and agreed to set up a consulate in Hargeisa by the first quarter of 2021, joining Ethiopia and Djibouti, which have diplomatic outposts in the Somaliland capital.
Kenya also announced direct Kenya Airways flights to Hargeisa angering Mogadishu which has responded by cutting diplomatic ties with Kenya for “constantly interfering with Somalia’s internal affairs and violating Somalia’s sovereignty”.
Kenyan diplomats in Mogadishu will have seven days to leave the country just a week after Mogadishu expelled the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Lucas Tumbo, and recalled their ambassador Mohamud Ahmed Tarzan, following a similar complaint of interference.
Somalia submitted a complaint to regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and deployed troops on Mandera, its common border with Kenya.
Kenya wants a friendly administration in Mogadishu to secure its interest over a maritime border row which is already before the International Court of Justice.
The impact on the latest spat has already started hitting the countries whose citizens are tied at the hip with historical and cultural ties that span the region.
Mandera residents are reported to have started moving away from the border for safety while Miraa growers now contend that the latest spat will lock them out of the Sh16 million a day Somalia market.
Nairobi also hosts a huge population of Somali refugees, businesses and professionals who have made Kenya their home following the decades of instability in the country.
They account for a huge chunk of Kenya’s dollar remittances and vibrant business in Nairobi and across the country.