Mogadishu (UM) – The pictures of Presidents Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Uhuru Kenyatta meeting and then been United by the President AbdelFattah Elsisi of Egypt in New York with joined arms yesterday was a game changer. It sent a message that we are still open to speaking even if we disagree over the Maritime case.
President Farmajo’ s team made very clear that during the meeting the President said that the Maritime case will not be settled any other way other than by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but he was ready to start talks on normalizing relations with Kenya. Kenya seems to agree with this position and has decided to pursue negotiations through what is likely to be a joint committee. In a statement the Kenyan government welcomed the meeting and said that African solutions must be used for African problems but a legal case at the ICJ is bigger than any private settlement or negotiated agreement by the African Union. This is a matter of Justice not private settlements.
Somalia and Kenya will never agree over the Maritime case and Somalis will always believe that Kenya has tried to take advantage of their country’s weakness by attempting to steal their waters. Both sides have suffered from the cold war between the two countries and now the leaders of the two countries have to move on from the case and on to the wider bilateral relations.
Somalia and Kenya are neighbours and must find a way to co-exist and achieve their common objectives and individual priorities. The two countries must increase security cooperation, trade and invest in enablers for regional economic cooperation.
The Somali and Kenyan people have a long history of cooperation and must find a way to stop the negativity that has built up over the last year and return to working together.
Neighbours are neighbours despite disagreements. If Kenya has accepted to leave the Maritime case to the ICJ then Somalia is right to open negotiations in other aspects of bilateral relations. However, if Kenya wants to play games and is not sincere about political reconciliation in the absence of getting their way on the Maritime case which is unacceptable, then hostilities will quickly return. Kenya must also show good will by stopping interfering in Somalia’s domestic politcs.
For now, it was good that Presidents Farmajo and Uhuru met and opened the discussions. These discussions will only go forward if Kenya acts fairly and responsibly and if the African Union acts impartially.