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Kenya to set up diplomatic offices in Somaliland

By Abuga Makori , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - The relationship between Somaliland and Kenya is seemingly blossoming, and Nairobi has now expressed interest in establishing diplomatic officers in Hargeisa, a significant move that would increase the northern breakaway region of Somalia's chances for international recognition.

Striving for recognition, Somaliland has been in charm diplomatic offensive in recent months, a move that involves signing deals with sovereign countries besides initiating bilateral agreements which would boost her economic fortunes globally.

And Kenya, which has been a major trading and development partner of Hargeisa, hailed the region for hosting hundreds of Kenyans who are living and working in Somaliland. Statistics indicate that hundreds of Kenyans work in the education and hospitality industry in Somaliland.

The ties, Kenya insisted, would now pave way for establishment of formal offices in Hargeisa, a move that could ignite a serious debate and probably, help Somaliland to officially join the United Nations. However, Nairobi did not reveal the exact date for the impending opening of the diplomatic offices.

"Kenya appreciates that Somaliland is home to largest no. of Kenyans living and working in the HOA, hence Kenya is working to establish an office in Hargeisa," Kenya Liaison office said. "This will improve liaising between the two nations and enable Kenyans in the region to access to government services."

The acknowledgment comes barely a month after a Kenyan delegation visited Somaliland where it held a closed-door meeting with President Muse Bihi Abdi. The delegation was led by Suna East MP who also doubles as National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, a close ally of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Multiple sources have intimated to Garowe Online that Odinga, who is also the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, would visit Hargeisa soon, in a trip that would further increase states for Somaliland's quest for recognition. No date has been set for the maiden trip.

Bashe Omar, who is Somaliland's ambassador to Kenya, said that Nairobi and Hargeisa share interests in "maintaining peace and stability" within the Horn of Africa region. Further, he hailed the cooperation between the two countries, adding that Somaliland borrows a lot of aspects including good governance from Kenya.

"Kenya is a vibrant economy and an open society, with opportunities to share with us the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights," the envoy said. "A strong relationship anchored on trade and development will spur massive economic opportunities for both our people."

In an interview with a local TV station in Kenya a fortnight ago, Ambassador Omar also exuded confidence that Kenya would back Somaliland's mission, adding that "if they recognize us, the better". Kenya was recently elected to the United Nations Security Council, a powerful organ which makes determinations such as approval of secessionist regions.

Asked whether the recognition of Somaliland would trigger massive separatists quest in Africa, Omar said Somaliland and Somalia share a unique relationship since the two were colonies of Britain and Italy respectively. The shared colonial boundaries, he added, are not contested thus "this is not a usual secession".

Somaliland gained independence from Britain on July 26, 1960, and would later merge with Somalia five days later, after the latter was freed from Italian. However, the marriage nosedived in 1991 following decades of civil war that left thousands dead in Somaliland, a move that triggered secession.

For almost three decades, Somaliland has been running a parallel administration with independent institutions from those of Somalia but is yet to be recognized. Last month, Djibouti and Ethiopia brokered talks between Hargeisa and Mogadishu and the outcome is due next month.

But despite the formal talks, which Somaliland has taken the recognition campaign a notch higher, including shuttle diplomacy with international friends which could eventually yield fruits. Early this month, the country signed a formal partnership deal with Taiwan, in an incident which irked both China and Somalia.

And a fortnight ago, Somaliland also received a delegation from Egypt which has since expressed interest in setting up a military base. The decision seemed to have irked Ethiopia, which dispatched a delegation early this week to Hargeisa to discuss the new development.

Kenya has been keen to work with Somaliland due to escalating insecurity in neighboring Somalia. Nairobi, which has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab attacks, believes that for stability to be achieved in Somalia, partnership with Somaliland and the federal state of Jubaland are inevitable.

Besides having a liaison office in Kenya, Somaliland has also established similar diplomatic offices in 27 other sovereign states across the world. Kenya's UNSC seat could prove indispensable for Somaliland in the next two years given that Somalia had openly opposed Nairobi's quest in favor of Djibouti during the June elections.


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