3 mins read

Kenya agrees to reopen Somalia border after 12-year closure

Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki (left) speaks during a joint press conference with his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali in Nairobi.

Kenya has on Monday agreed to officially reopen its border points with Somalia in Mandera, Lamu and Garissa in the coming 90 days.

The move, announced by Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh after high-level consultations in Nairobi, effectively ends a 12-year barricade that began in 2011 when Kenya was launching Operation Linda Nchi to fight the influx of Al-Shabaab fighters into the country.

“We have resolved that the border between Kenya and Somalia will be reopened in phases…First to open is Bula Hawa in Mandera in 30 days. Next is Liboi (Mandera) in 60 days and Ras Kamboni (Lamu) in 90 days,” CS Kindiki said.

The government is also mulling adding a fourth border post in Wajir County, he said.

“Border communities in both countries have so much in common. There is need to strengthen cross-border communication,” CS Kindiki noted, adding that Kenya and Somalia will continue to work together to ensure stability of the two neighbour nations.

“Our two countries are in agreement on modalities. We will undertake internal consultation on strategies of securing gains made through our partnership,” he added.

Cross-border intelligence

In a joint statement, the two ministers said their discussions revolved around the need for shared cross-border intelligence and enhancement of law enforcement capacity to man the borders.

They also discussed plans to establish modern and secure border infrastructure to facilitate ease of trade, mobility and movement of people.

The initiative, dubbed “Deris Wanaag” which is Somali for “Good Neighbourliness,” is funded by the United Kingdom with the aim to find a lasting solution to perennial insecurity and instability in the Horn of Africa region due to Al-Shabaab.

The project is worth over Ksh1.7 billion ($12 million) and will run over the next three years with a view to improving regional security and countering extremism.

On Thursday last week, the government also launched a new project to reopen its border with Ethiopia, which had also suffered attacks by Shabaab in June last year.

In August last year, the Somali government launched an all-out war against the Al-Shabaab, prompting the government of Kenya to heighten security along the border to prevent an overflow of fleeing militants into the country.

Thawing relations

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union military operation against the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a violent insurgency in Somalia for more than 15 years.

Relations between the two nations have been dogged by a maritime border row as well as Somali accusations of Kenyan meddling in its affairs, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political and security problems.

Somalia severed diplomatic ties in December 2020 after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway region not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu.

Relations have since thawed with the two countries reactivating their diplomatic channels last year.

Kenya and Somalia share a 680-kilometre land border and have been locked in a long-running dispute for years over a potentially oil-and-gas rich chunk of the Indian Ocean.

In October 2021, the UN’s top court handed control of most of the area to Somalia but Kenya rejected the ruling.

Additional Report by AFP