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Somalia restores diplomatic ties with Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo during a part event in Mogadishu.

Somalia has restored diplomatic ties it cut with Kenya through mediation by Qatar. The decision was announced on Thursday in what Somalia’s presidency said was to sustain regional peace and harmony

Abdirashid M Hashi, the spokesman for Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo, said Qatar had steered the resumption of relations but did not elaborate how.

“In interest of good neighbourliness, FGS [federal government of Somalia] resumes diplomatic ties with Kenya based on mutual benefit and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-external interference, peaceful co-existence and equality.

Special envoy

“Somalia and Kenya Presidents thank Emir of Qatar for his good offices in this regard.” The move seemed likely earlier this week after the Qatar Emir sent his special envoy to Somalia and Kenya. In Kenya, State House said Dr Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani had delivered a special message from the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Thani.

Dr Al-Qahtani, has been Qatari’s Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar for Counter-terrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution and was largely involved in negotiations between Afghani government and the Talibani, which could allow US troops to pull out without a security vacuum.

Somalia had cut ties with Kenya in December 2020 and ordered its ambassador Mohamed Nur Tarsan to return home and Kenya’s Lucas Tumbo ordered back in Nairobi. It accused Nairobi of political interference, claims Kenya denied.

On Thursday, Kenya said it took “note” of Somalia’s announcement to restore ties with Kenya and hoped there will be further normalisation including on issues of trade.

“In taking note of these developments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs looks forward to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities including with regard to trade, communication, transportation, people to people relations and cultural exchanges,” a statement said, thanking Qatar for its efforts to help Somalia normalise relations with Kenya.

The developments follow a series of back channels between Somalia, Kenya and Qatar, which has enjoyed an influential position in Somalia under President Farmaajo.

Tensions

Nairobi had involved Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i in messages sent to Mogadishu, back in September when the two countries started engaging in accusations, as well as to Doha last month. Somalia and Kenya have an ongoing maritime case at the International Court of Justice, and the dispute had helped foment tensions under Farmaajo’s tenure.

Though Somalia’s cut ties were opposed by partners and the African Union, who warned they jeopardised focus on counter-terrorism measures, the resumption of ties could easily be credited to Qatar’s behind-the-scenes manoeuvres.

This week, Dr al-Qahtani was in Mogadishu where he met with political stakeholders currently discussing the electoral calendar to be used. It came following days of tensions in Somalia after President Farmaajo endorsed Parliament’s decision to extend his term by two years, arguing it provided time for universal suffrage. But following opposition to the move, Farmaajo advised Parliament to cancel the extension.

On Wednesday, stakeholders agreed to reinstate sacked military chiefs who had been accused of defying the army’s commands and siding with clan leaders. – nation.co.ke