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Somalia and Kenya must look beyond ICJ’s upcoming verdict

NAIROBI, Kenya - The Kenya government’s recent decision to deny entry visas to Somali officials and impose other restrictions on Somalis risks reopening a long-healed wound of distrust between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

The history of the two neighboring countries, which are now locked in a maritime dispute, is littered with political and military blunders that seem to inform the mutual suspicion between their peoples.

While Kenya has a legitimate right to adopt any policy it deems necessary for its foreign affairs, its recent actions targeting Somalia, such as the reimposition of the Wajir stopover and denying entry visa to government officials, to demonstrate a short-term, knee-jerk reaction to Somalia’s refusal to withdraw the maritime boundary case from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Somalia’s decision to sue Kenya was certain to test the relations between Nairobi and Mogadishu, perhaps in a magnitude similar to the 1960s rebellion in the former Northern Frontier District that wanted to join Somalia. Kenya put down that insurgency with brute force, whose effects were still being felt by the inhabitants of that region.

But what worked in the 19th Century is unlikely to work in the 21st Century.


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