A stable Kenya is good for Somalia – UM

Are we still friends? President Uhuru Kenyatta with Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo during a past meeting in Nairobi. Photo courtesy: Google

Mogadishu (UM) – President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo was among many Heads of States attending the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi today. While there were concerns on the Kenyan side regarding the attendance of other Heads of States, Somalia’s was always certain to attend and, so he did and should have.

President Uhuru tonight starts his second term as President of Kenya despite the claims by the opposition, led by Raila Odinga, of a rigged election. In the second round of votes which took place on the 26th October 2017 after the Supreme Court nullified the first result due to irregularities, President Kenyatta managed to secure 98% of the vote but with a turn out of just under 39%. The main opposition leader actively encouraged his supporters to stay away from participating in the second round which explains the overwhelming majority of votes for President Kenyatta but on the lower turn out numbers.

After the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration the challenging task of healing and uniting a divided nation must begin with President Uhuru Kenyatta as the main driver as the leader of the Kenyan nation. The opposition must also be mature enough to realise that they must now focus their energy on holding the elected President Kenyatta and his Jubilee coalition to account rather than creating more doubts and confusion about a completed process.

All Somalis wish their Kenyan neighbours, whichever way they voted, the best of a successful peaceful future characterised by continuous progress. Whatever the internal politics of the Kenyan elections, Somalia must work closely with its neighbour with whom it shares a land border and people. Like Djibouti, Kenya is unique in this regard and, as such, a special partner. Like most neighbourly states, there are some tensions, including the case of the sea in the international court of Justice, but overall the relations between Somalia and Kenya are strong. This is thanks to President Kenyatta and his policy of closer engagement with Somalia that has seen the completion of the Joint Cooperation Commission,

the re-instatement of the direct flights from Somalia to Nairobi and the closer security cooperation to overcome regional insecurity. The
re-election of President Kenyatta will ensure the continuation of this positive bilateral engagement with the possibility of extending it further into greater volumes of cross border trade and other forms of exchange.

Somalis consider Kenya a vital ally and friend which responded to their needs for support and settlement during the difficult period of the civil war. As a result, and to the benefit of both sides, today Somali businesses in Kenya are thriving and many engage in cross border trade connecting the two countries further. Kenyan professionals are also working in Somalia as the preferred contractors. However, an area of concern remains the dignified return of Somali refugees from Kenya in line with the spirit and letter of international law and as specified in the Tripartite Agreement. With President Uhuru returning to office, this concern is most likely to fade away.

With his small majority of votes and the low turnout, critics will no doubt question the legitimacy of President Kenyatta. This is most likely to force him to concentrate on domestic policies at the cost of foreign relations. However, in terms of security, investment and economic development, Somalia and Kenya’s interest are aligned, and this is another reason for optimism in the strengthening of ties between the two nations for the benefit of their two peoples.

As President Farmaajo prepares Somalia for universal suffrage, Kenya’s election will serve as a vital lesson to learn given the similar challenges and opportunities in Somalia. However, to fully capitalise on the great opportunities offered by enhanced partnership between Somalia and Kenya, a new heavyweight Somali Ambassador must be appointed who can bring to life the full promise of the Joint Cooperation Commission.