Mogadishu (UM) – Last night, in a dramatic fashion the Kenyan Foreign Ministry released what was a hybrid between an emotional statement and a communique revealing what their leadership really thought of Somalia. Somalia was almost reduced to a failed state barely functioning and ungrateful for the support Kenya has provided to it. Somalia is not yet a politically or diplomatically mature nation which abides by international norms is the key message from Kenya. Somalia is no longer stupid enough or asleep to be robbed in broad daylight should be the Somali response. The opinion of most International lawyers is that Kenya’s legal claim to Somalia’s maritime territory is weak and Somalia will easily win the case as the facts support this. For the time being, Kenya is applying emotional pressure and bully boy tactics which should not frighten the Somali government or people: Somalia and its people know and understand the value of the resources in the disputed waters and must benefit from it.
Kenya has called back its Ambassador in Mogadishu and Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya has returned to Somalia this morning in a sign of the future of the two sides’ relations to come as the legal case regarding the maritime border gathers pace. While Kenya thinks about whether or not it wants to continue diplomatic relations with Somalia, it is important that a few facts are highlighted to their leadership.
Somalis are grateful for the way Kenya welcomed them after the civil war and allowed them to live, invest and make a life for themselves in Kenya. Somalia is also grateful for the way Kenya welcomed its refugees. Also, Kenya is playing a visible role within AMISOM to defeat Alshabaab. However, all these are signs of good neighbourly practices and actions which Somalis would have reciprocated in the same fashion had Kenya gone the way of Somalia. Globalisation presents common opportunities and threats, and, on both sides, there have been benefits in weakening global terrorism and economic growth through investment. Specifically on the security side, the fight against Alshabaab is not a favour on the part of Kenya on Somalia, it is the new reality of fighting a radicalised Global terrorist organisation which is equally happy to cause and havoc in Kenya as it is in Somalia.
Kenya and Somalia have been allies since independence despite the issue of the Somali territories wrongly given away by colonisers not been formally settled. Most Somalis feel a part of their land is still occupied by Kenya. Yet, most of the Somali people, and the Somali Government, do not continuously remind their Kenyan counterparts of this issue like Kenyans remind them of what they did for them since the civil war. Yes, Kenya supported Somali through a difficult phase of civil war but it does not mean they ask to be paid with Somalia’s natural resources or parts of its territories.
The Somali people have contributed significantly to the economy of Kenya. Eastleigh was nothing more than a wasteland before Somalis turned it into the highest tax paying area of the Kenyan capital. Today, thanks to Somali merchants, the Kenyan working and middle classes can afford items and goods that were out of their reach during the periods of monopoly before the Somalis arrived. Thanks to Somali business community and investors, Eastleigh is an African wide shopping district which ensures Kenya benefits most. The narcotic drug ‘Khat’ support entire Kenya farming communities and contributes to the GDP of Kenya, on the Somali side, Khat only brings social destruction and bad health, which many Somalis come to Nairobi to seek medical treatment. Somali do not complain of these.
Kenyans students and middle class have prospered thanks to the Somali focused NGOs and other international organisations setting up in Nairobi. Kenyans are employed by all Somali projects with excellent salaries and benefits that are unlikely to be available to them within their national public and private sector. Moreover, Kenyan professionals are working in the same organisations and in hotels and other industries in Somalia without so much a single complaint from the Somali government and people. So why is it that Kenyans continuously seek to remind the Somali people of their generosity? What about Somali and its people’s contribution to Kenya?
Somalia and Kenya must resolve this diplomatic matter quickly and in good faith. The issue of the maritime border will be decided by the International Court of Justice but until then both nations must recognise what they mean to each other with or without this judgement.