AU Commission calls for talks to end Kenya-Somalia tension

Kenya-Somalia tensionPresident Uhuru Kenyatta attends the 38th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) held in Djibouti on December 20, 2020.

The diplomatic tension between Kenya and Somalia is a concern for the African Union, the AU Commission has said, and urged talks between the two countries.

AUC Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat addressed the matter on Sunday during the 38th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), that took place in Djibouti.

Mr Mahamat called for dialogue in de-escalating the tension, saying the two countries share a long history of good neighbourliness.

He also cited Kenya’s contribution of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and its hosting of a large population of Somali refugees as key reference points.

The relationship between Kenya and Somalia has continued to deteriorate, with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo threatening to expel Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops who are part of Amisom.

Also Read: Tension as Somalia deploys soldiers to Mandera border

Farmaajo’s threat comes days after Somalia expelled Kenyan diplomats in a memo sent to Nairobi at 1am. On Friday, Defence CS Monica Juma cancelled a press conference at Kenya Army Headquarters at the eleventh hour.

The move came as Nairobi hosted Somaliland President Muse Bihi, with whom Kenya agreed to start direct flights and set up a consulate in Hargeisa by March.

Farmaajo’s reaction baffled many since his administration had endorsed Kenya’s application to set up a diplomatic outpost in Hargeisa.

Other regional issues

President Uhuru Kenyatta travelled to Djibouti on Sunday morning, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo, to attend the summit called by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Mr Hamdok is the current chair of the Igad Assembly.

Presidents Ismail Omar Guelleh (Djibouti) and Mohamed Abdullahi (Somalia), and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also attended the summit.

South Sudan and Uganda were represented, respectively, by Vice President Rebecca Garang and ambassador to Djibouti Rebecca Otengo.

In his welcoming remarks, President Guelleh applauded the nations for progress made in the search for sustainable peace and stability in the region, despite disruptions posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and other setbacks such as floods and the desert locust invasion.

Mr Mahamat also spoke about Ethiopia, urging member States to assist the country in dealing with the humanitarian crisis arising from its conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Speaking just before the leaders retreated into a closed-door session, Prime Minister Hamdok said the meeting was called to discuss ongoing regional peace and security processes in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

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