Somalilandsun: Hargeisa was the venue of high profile discussions between Somaliland and Kenya that began On Thursday the 2nd of this month.
This development came following an official visit to Somaliland by a high profile Kenyan delegation dispatched from Nairobi by President Uhuru Kenyatta with the objective of enhancing diplomatic and social relations between the two countries as well as to boost trade and investment.
Led by Suna East Member of Parliament Junet Mohamed the Kenyan team included a number of MPs as well as a notable presence of two heavyweights – George Muhoho (uncle to President Kenyatta) and his daughter Anne Nyokabi.
During its one day mission the Kenyans held discussions with the administration of president Muse Bihi Abdi and the chairman of opposition party UCID Eng. Feisal Ali Warabe.
Upon arrival in the country the Kenyan team was received by the Somaliland foreign affairs deputy minister Liban Yousuf Osman who revealed this meeting through his twitter account (@DeputyLiban) where he wrote “It was my utmost pleasure to receive the delegation From the Republic of #Kenya led by Hon. @JunetMohamed. They had a wonderful one-day visit to the Republic Somaliland aimed to strengthen ties and cooperation of the two nations.”
Next on agenda was a meeting with a Somaliland government team at the presidency in Hargeisa chaired by president Muse Bihi where relations between the two countries were discussed candidly and in-depth.
At the presidency the Kenyan team extended official greetings from the president Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya as they informed that the main purpose of the visit was upon wishes of their head of state of enhancing diplomatic and social relations as well as to boost trade and investment between the two countries.
President Bihi who accorded the Kenyans a full diplomatic protocols welcome while thanking his Kenyan counterpart for his pursuit of enhancing relations between the two peoples as he revisited the long term friendship that continues to grow stronger, said “We have a long history with Kenya dating back to colonial days.
Though devoid of formal sovereignty recognition from a Kenya which hosts a Somaliland trade office in Nairobi but handles its diplomatic affairs from its embassy in Mogadishu, Somaliland is home to the largest number of Kenyans living and working in the Horn of Africa region.
The Kenyans who are to be found in all parts of the country work in the education industry as teachers and lecturers, in the hotel industry, while others are working as doctors and nurses and in the Information Technology sector. This cadre also includes a large number of skilled Kenyans employed in the construction sector in addition to a similar figure of expatriates working for international and local agencies.
The pursuit of Kenya to enhance relations and more at diplomatic level with Somaliland has been relentless in the last couple of years in which a number of high profile delegations have been regular visitors to Hargeisa.
Following an April 2019 meeting with Somaliland’s representative to Kenya, Ambassador Bashe Awil and immediate past and current finance minister Dr Saad Ali Shire in Nairobi the Kenya foreign affairs minister Monica Juma wrote a letter to Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua proposing the setting up of a mission in Hargeisa.
The Foreign Affairs ministry directed Mr. Philip Mundia Githiora to establish the mission in Hargeisa the same year but this development is yet to come to fruition mainly due to political interference from the Federal Government of Somalia and more so its president Mohamed Abdilahi Farmajo whose entire tenure has been utilized blocking the sovereignty recognition of Somaliland, a country it claims as its northwest region.
Mr. Githiora who is officially charged with Somaliland desk at the ministry of foreign affairs is a former Counsellor at the Kenyan Embassy in Moscow, Russia
Somaliland celebrated its 60th anniversary of its 26th June 1960 independence from Great Britain this year and though it was recognized by the five permanent members of the United nations the country which entered into a voluntary later turned fateful union with Somalia a former Italian colony to its south-east is currently pursuing international recognition three decades after reclaiming its sovereignty.
In December 2018, Somaliland hosted an investors’ forum in Nairobi that was opened by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Yasin Mohammed Hiir, who encouraged Kenyan investors to exploit the opportunities his country offers.
“Come and work with us in building the great nation of Somaliland. We have so many opportunities. We need to expand cross-border trade and investments between the two countries for mutual gain,” Mr. Hiir said, adding that his country is also keen on building social relations. “The large number of Kenyans who are working and living in Somaliland is proof of our good hospitality. We can increase prosperity for our citizens through enhanced trade,” he observed.
Among Kenyan businessmen set to benefit from good relations are Mira (khat) traders with ambassador Bashe urging Kenya Airways to take cue and start direct flights between Nairobi and Hargeisa.
A number of international airlines like Ethiopian, Fly Dubai, and Air Arabia and Djibouti air among others operate regular flights to Egal international airport in Hargeisa
Kenya is also home to a staunch advocate for the recognition of Somaliland namely Raila Amolo Odinga the official opposition leader through his party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and former prime minister.
Mr. Odinga who has visited Somaliland twice is also a regular host of officials from Hargeisa at his Nairobi offices from where avenues to achieve the quest for international recognition are broached on but most important is his call to the international community made at Heathrow airport London in April 2013.
The Former prime minister made this sentiments during a meeting with president Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo at Heathrow airport London where the two were moving on opposite directions with Odinga in London to attend the CEO Summit Africa’ while president Silanyo is on the way home after a lengthily diplomatic sojourn in Turkey, UK and USA.
While wishing Somalilanders well in the endeavours Raila Odinga said that the world which can no longer continue to ignore achievements the unrecognized Somaliland has garnered in 21 years should now reciprocate by capping them recognition as a sovereign nation.
Apart from Junet Mohamed who led the latest delegation to Somaliland being a legislator representing the predominantly Somali region of Northeastern he is also ODM party Director of elections and a close confidant of Raila Odinga.
The Raila advocacy for Somaliland has not been spared the wrath of Somalia as can be exemplified by castigations from Mogadishu in September 2016 after, he Raila , told a Q&A session at London’s Chatham house discusing the Importance of Democracy in Africa, Kenya’s Experience that “I am a strong supporter of the full recognition of Somaliland. I think there is a very strong case,”
An irked Somalia through its envoy to Kenya Ambassador Gamal Hassan said “the comment by Raila was irresponsible and damaging the country’s territorial integrity, since Somalia considers Somaliland part and parcel of the country despite the fact that Somaliland has been a sovereign nation for the past 25 years”.
Another prominent Kenyan to advocate for the recognition of Somaliland is the Cabinet secretary (Minister) of Trade and Industrialization Peter Munya who was a regular visitor to Hargeisa during his immediate past tenure as governor of Meru county renowned for its Miraa (khat) crop.
In his couple of 2016 visits the Kenyan minister pursued a novel route of trade for recognition in which Somaliland shall import Khat from Kenya with Nairobi reciprocating with official acknowledgement of its sovereignty.
This saw the then governor Munya upon urging the government of Somaliland to reduce the high tax imposed on Khat imports from Kenya to the level of that of Ethiopian import, submit an official request of Somaliland recognition to the parliament in Nairobi.
“Even as we demand full recognition of Somaliland by Kenya, Ethiopia and international community, we also plead with Somaliland to treat all its commercial partners with equality, not preferring one to the other” urged Munya
Though he is no longer governor of the miraa growing county, Mr. Munya has continued to engage with Somaliland in his current position as minister of Trade and Industrialization through despite past political injuries through regular meets with Amb Bashe Awil and his notable presence and facilitation of the December 2018 Somaliland investors’ forum in Nairobi.
If things go as projected Kenya will join Ethiopia, Turkey, UK and Djibouti as some of the countries with diplomatic missions in Somaliland.