A row between Somalia and Kenya over Jubbaland region in Somalia is threatening the security situation on both sides of the border.
Earlier this month, fighting between forces loyal to Jubbaland regional administration and Somali National Army spilled over into Mandera town that borders Somalia’s Bulla Hawa. Somali forces say they were pursuing a fugitive local minister in Jubbaland wanted for crimes in Mogadishu. Somalia accused Kenya of harbouring the minister, Abdirashid Janan.
Jubbaland consists of three provinces; Gedo, Middle Jubba and Lower Jubba, but control of Lower Jubba and Kismayu port is the biggest prize. Jubbaland is a potentially rich region, with good seasonal rainfall, year-round rivers, forests, and lush farm- and range-lands, as well as potential offshore oil and gas deposits.
The domestic stakes are high, as clan factions fight over the division of resources.
In October 2011, Kenya entered Somalia to fight al Shabab group, which it accused of abducting foreign tourists inside its territory. Later, it became part of the African Union mission to help Somali government defeat al Shabab.
For long, Nairobi wanted to establish a buffer zone in Jubbaland to prevent al Shabab militants from crossing into Kenya. If it can prevent al Shabab attacks because of the buffer zone, its tourism sector will flourish and a massive project on Lamu Port will go on, as investors will have no fear of attacks coming from Somalia.
Ten years later, Jubbaland remains one of Somalia’s most-unstable regions and it failed to act as a buffer zone to stop al Shabab from carrying out attacks inside Kenya. Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia, the al Qaeda-linked group carried out dozens of attacks in Kenya, killing hundreds of Kenyan citizens in the process.
Kenya’s interest in Jubbaland goes beyond creating a buffer zone and stopping al Shabab from entering Kenya. It sees economic interest in Jubbaland. Some influential Kenyan politicians and well-connected businesspeople want access to Kismayu port to avoid paying taxes at the port of Mombasa.
Though banned by the United Nations Security Council, the harvesting and export of charcoal has become a particularly lucrative industry, and continues to flourish with the help of Kenyan troops who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, commonly known as Amisom. Moreover, some within the Kenyan government are benefitting from this illegal trade, according to a United Nations report.
With a weak central government in place, whoever controls Kismayu can have influence over oil deposits in a contested maritime zone. Kenya supported the re-election of Ahmed Mohamed Islam, also known as Madobe, in August 2019, despite opposition from Mogadishu.
Both Kenya and Somalia claim ownership of 100,000 square kilometres triangle in the Indian Ocean believed to have large deposits of oil and gas. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Nairobi of encroaching part of its territory. Kenya tried to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case from the ICJ and settle the dispute of the court, but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.
“There is nothing ideological that ties Kenya to Madobe, except the fact that he is the best person to guarantee security which is in our interest. It is about the stability of the region, prosperity and security,” says Peter Kagwanja, a University of Nairobi lecturer told Kenya’s second-largest newspaper, The Standard.
Kenya also wants to get rid of Somali refugees, but before it does that, it may want to create some resemblance of stability in Jubbaland so that it could repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees living in camps in northeastern Kenya, and convince the international community that the region is safe and refugees can return. The Kenyan government says al Shabab elements hide in refugee camps where they plan attacks in the country.
Kenya’s action in Jubbaland may result in a clan warfare not only within Somalia but also in Ethiopia and Kenya, where clans in Jubbaland dispute also live.
The disagreement between Somalia and Kenya could jeopardise the security cooperation between the two – a big boon for al-Shabab – which is a pain in the neck for both countries.
Presidents Mohamed Farmajo and Uhuru Kenyatta are meeting in Nairobi this week to try to resolve their differences. Mogadishu and Nairobi can ill afford to take their eyes off the ball – al- Shabab, their common enemy, and waste their energy on resolvable diplomatic disputes.
Al Shabab has been driven out of major towns in Somalia but it is still capable of conducting high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia, Kenya being the most vulnerable.
How the ambitions of Hassan Ali Khaire contributed to his fall
In mid-2018, Hassan Ali Khaire assembled his communications team and asked them to build a strong social media presence for his office and create a public image for himself. He wanted his government’s work to be publicised and to show Somalis and the world a new prime ministerial office never seen before in the post-civil war Somalia. He wanted to portray a powerful, superior prime minister.
The immediate-former prime minister was the only government official running three different Twitter accounts. The official account for the office of the prime minister, two personal accounts; one in English (and Somali) and the other in Arabic – to communicate with the Arab world – Somalia is a member of the Arab League, and the Gulf countries play their geopolitics in Somalia. Other politicians did not think of this, but Khaire did. He is a former corporate executive and an NGO manager. Khaire understands the importance of media more than other Somali politicians do. He is the most eloquent politician Somalia has seen in recent decades.
President Mohamed Farmajo and PM Khaire set to finish their first term in office together, run for office again and return to Villa Somalia together, but Khaire had an ambition, a presidential ambition. He wanted to succeed Farmajo, and Farmajo knew it. No one saw their break up coming.
Since 2000, every president had some sort of disagreement with his prime minister. Farmajo and Khaire had disagreements but it was hidden from the public. Because of this, Khaire became the longest serving premier in the post-civil war era.
The debate around Somalia’s election of which no one knows when and how it will happen is what killed the broamance between Farmajo and Khaire. The trust between the two has been broken. Farmajo wants a direct election in which the Somali public can pick their political representatives. The president’s opponents say a direct election will not be possible, and that Farmajo is using the universal suffrage as an excuse to extend his term in office. Khaire was seen as supporting the ideas of his boss’ opponents; he always called for timely polls, although the government never said it would delay elections.
There is no love lost between the leaders of the federal member states (FMS) and Farmajo. Khaire thought this was an opportunity to exploit: get closer to these leaders and alienate the president. When FMS leaders gathered in the central town of Dhuusamareeb in July to discuss the electoral process, Khaire left Mogadishu and joined them to negotiate for clan-based election which would take place as schedule. Days later, Farmajo flew to Dhuusamareeb and joined other leaders, beating Khaire at his own game. It was a battle of tactics won by Farmajo.
FMS leaders accidentally exposed Khaire in his double-dealing between Farmajo and FMS leaders. According to privy sources, Khayre prodded FMSs to reject one person, one vote in private while he pretended to be on Farmajo’s side in public.
In one of those farewell banquets in Dhuusamareeb, one FMS leader told Farmajo to drop the quest for one person, one vote like every other principal. It was like saying, ‘your PM is with us on this.’
One Western country was fond of Khaire to the extent that their diplomats in Halane were openly hostile to Farmajo in favour of his prime minister. To that end, that particular country was indirectly pushing for indirect elections which they thought will favour Khaire. Inside sources say that this particular country pushed the envelope too hard in not only giving Khaire false hope of easy presidency but also made him alienate his boss and the parliament.
The Lower House has passed an election law backing the one person, one vote election, but the Senate isn’t convinced about the possibility of direct polls. Sources within the Senate say Khaire was behind a statement by the Upper House leadership disagreeing with the possibility of holding a direct election, and called for talks between the president and the FMS leaders. On the electoral issue, Farmajo and Khaire have been pulling from different ends, Khaire whispering behind the president’s back silently, according to Villa Somalia insiders.
“We cannot lead a country when the prime minister is working against the president. The president is giving Somalis a chance to elect their leaders direct, and Khaire is against this,” a close ally of President Farmajo told The Frontier.
On July 25, three days after the Dhuusamareeb conference concluded, the Somali parliament voted to withdraw confidence from PM Khaire and his administration. At mid-night, he accepted the parliamentary decision and resigned.
US says Somali parliament’s removal of Khayre ‘illegal’
The United States has expressed regrets over the removal of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office in a vote of no-confidence by parliament.
The US embassy in Mogadishu, in a statement, said there has been ‘irregularities’ in the vote to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Khayre and his government. It said the action of the parliament and the president ‘heightened political tensions and undermined the ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation’ between the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, and other key stakeholders.
“This irregular process is a setback for the reform agenda Somalia has pursued with the support of the United States. Somalia’s stability, security, and prosperity can only be built through cooperation, coordination, and compromise among Somalia’s leaders; if any individual or institution seeks to dominate the others, it undermines the stability of the entire nation,” read part of the statement.
The embassy said the only path forward to timely, peaceful, implementable federal elections is through broad-based consultation and constructive dialogue among stakeholders.
Developing a workable, broadly acceptable election model is key to preserving Somalia’s security and stability, it said.
The US is one of Somalia’s key donors and supports its military. The United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance for Somalia since fiscal year 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees. Since 2011, the United States has provided an additional $253 million in development assistance to support economic, political, and social sectors to achieve greater stability, establish a formal economy, obtain access to basic services, and attain representation through legitimate, credible governance.
Last year, the US reopened a bureau for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, that has been closed since a civil war began here in 1991.
The US has around 500 soldiers and military advisors based in Somalia that often accompany the Somali army and special operations forces on ground raids against al Shabab group.
Somali parliament removes Prime Minister Ali Khayre
Somali lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and his cabinet, a move that is likely to delay elections, deteriorating recent gains in the Horn of Africa nation.
A hundred and seventy members of parliament supported the vote while eight rejected, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to appoint a new premier in 30 days, but may do so in days.
“The rift between the government and the legislature is undermining the progress that has been made, and to that end I have decided to consider the voice of the House of Representatives as the foundation of our nationhood,” Farmajo said in a statement carried on state media.
Khaire, a former oil executive, was appointed in February 23 and approved by parliament in March 2017.
The country is planning to go for elections, but it is still unclear what kind of elections it will have. The electoral commission said it is planning to hold a one person, one vote in a year, while the opposition is calling for a timely election which means it prefers the current clan system where clan elders pick legislators.
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