EDITORIAL: Politicians should embrace reality: Nairobi and Mogadishu are tied at the hip
EDITORIAL | Somalia’s electoral campaigns are exposing the deeper, political and cultural, ties the country has had with Kenya in spite of the ongoing tiffs on various issues.
And we say this will be good in the long run, for both countries. Here is how:
As soon as the electoral calendar was released last month, scores of politicians have trooped Nairobi to meet up their allies, raise funds or simply gather for strategy.
From the face of it, it looks like the politicians are simply running away from insecurity challenges in Mogadishu. After all, militant group al-Shabaab has often sprouted up stronger around election time. And it is also possible that those politicians are seeking whatever support they need from any partners to secure election to various seats. Some have also whispered about the potential for government eyes to look into their meetings.
But those politicians have included ex-President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, former Prime Minister Hassan Khaire, former Galmudug leader Abdikarim Hussein Guled and various politicians who have served as legislators or cabinet ministers in the past including Abdirahman Abdishakur, the former Planning Minister now the leader of Wadajir Party.
They're coming to Nairobi may be because the country has allowed them free speech and right to assembly. But it could also be a gauging platform to see who will have a more favourable policy for Nairobi.
The two countries haven't had the best of times in the last three years. They are fighting it out at the International Court of Justice for a boundary dispute in the Indian ocean. The relationship between the Somali National Army and the Kenya Defence Forces have been on-off, signalled by occasional border clashes as witnessed recently at the Mandera-Gedo border region.
Yet there is always some good in every bad thing. Somali politicians trooping Nairobi may signal a weakness on Somalia’s side as far as political freedoms are concerned. It may also signal the potential for interference. But on the positive side, they're coming continuously, may strengthen ties eventually. Those politicians have met with their counterparts, government officials and business people.
A very rarely talked about issue in the Somalia-Kenya relations is the possible business ties that could blossom? With both countries tied at the hip geographically and culturally (there are significant ethnic Somali communities in Kenya), facing common threats of drought and al-Shabaab, only continued interaction can solve existing problems.
From the outset, Somalia’s current government of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has strengthened relations with Ethiopia and Eritrea. But it is obvious that stance has been controversial.
There are advantages in strengthening relations with Kenya more than worsening them. First, a clear, uninterrupted connection with Kenya could cure the past differences. These are the two countries that have faced the most attacks from al-Shabaab. With that common challenge, they are Siamese twins facing the same pain.
While we are not saying Somalia should not develop the transport corridors to Ethiopia or collaborate with Eritrea on military training, only Kenya has a stronger democracy worth emulating and learning from. Granted, Kenya’s own path has been littered with ethnic politics which led to deadly clashes 12 years ago. With Somalia’s clans always strangling free choice, it is only fair that Somalia does not dig its head in the sand and refuse to learn from other people’s mistakes.
Somalia can choose to enhance relations with all neighbours because each one of them has strengths and weaknesses. But to alienate Nairobi because it is improving ties with others will be unwise.