How Djibouti's relationship with Somalia almost collapsed over Kenya's interests


NAIROBI, Kenya - Aden Hassan Aden leaves Somalia after a rather smooth but troublesome stint as Djibouti's ambassador, something which almost strained relationship between the two sisterly nations, that share almost historical social-economic, and political fortunes.

Last week, Aden Hassan Aden bade farewell to both Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid, ending his tenure, in which Somalia almost cut ties with your tiny Horn of Africa nation, whose influence is expanding rapidly at the Horn of Africa.

Even before his departure, Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had attended the inauguration of Omar Ismail Guelleh in Djibouti, a clear manifestation that the two nations may have buried bad politics of retaliation that almost surfaced early this year.

While bidding him farewell, PM Roble was quick to note the importance of a stable relationship between Somalia and Djibouti, adding that: "I thanked him for enhancing our inherent bilateral relationship and wished well in his future engagements."

Similar sentiments were echoed by Mahdi Gulaid, the Deputy Prime Minister who also hosted Aden Hassan Aden, terming the two countries "sisterly" in his Twitter account. He also noted a cordial relationship with Djibouti.

"A pleasure to bid farewell to depart Ambassador Hassan Aden who has served his country well; helping to further develop cordial relations during his five years posting to Mogadishu. Somalia and Djibouti are forever brotherly-sisterly nations," he said.

Aden Hassan Aden, a diplomat par excellence, had one of the troubling moments in January this year, when Somalia issued a complaint about the troubled relationship which Nairobi, which had taken a nose-dive that almost sparked an international crisis.

Somalia's fury over Djibouti stand

The simmering tensions were triggered by a report done by a task force from Djibouti, which exonerated Kenya of alleged interference with Somalia's internal affairs. The report also among others, cleared KDF of alleged incompetence while performing their duties in the Gedo region.

In the report, claims that Kenya was harboring a criminal enterprise from Jubaland were dismissed as "untrue and misleading", something which may have further angered Somalia. Mogadishu had in December 2020 cut a relationship with Kenya over the claims.

But in a rejoinder, Somalia's government firmly opposed a report on the diplomatic row between Somalia and Kenya that was submitted by the Djibouti committee to IGAD, in a statement issued by Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe.

Dubbe, a close ally of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, insisted that the report did not capture information given by Somalia, adding that the task force members were compromised by Kenya.

Djibouti said, however, fact-finding mission on the situation between Somalia and Kenya was carried out with professionalism and impartiality. “Djibouti was only driven by the sole purpose to help the two sisterly nations ease tensions...[Djibouti] adopted an unbiased approach."

But despite the explanation, Somalia insisted Kenya's activities in Jubaland were "destructive" and contravened the "sovereignty" of the country. Although it didn't immediately showcase plans to alienate Djibouti, Farmajo's absence from Guelleh's inauguration may have as well been a coded signal.

Besides trying to settle diplomatic spat between Kenya and Somalia, Djibouti is also a force-contributing nation to Somalia just like Kenya. Over 3,000 soldiers from the country are stationed in sections of Middle Shebelle, a notorious Al-Shabaab hideout.

Djibouti's growing influence

But the true picture of what the relationship between Kenya and Somalia means to Djibouti was well captured in the recent statement issued by Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, the minister for Foreign Affairs in Djibouti, who is also a seasoned diplomat.

In his statement, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf hailed the resumption of diplomatic ties between Kenya and Somalia, after the former lifted ban on all aircraft playing the Nairobi-Mogadishu route. Only humanitarian and medivac flights were given authorization before the ban was lifted.

"Djibouti welcomes the resumption of diplomatic relations between the sisterly Republic of Somalia and the Sisterly Republic of Kenya. It is indeed a great development in our IGAD region for the sake of peace and stability," he said in a statement.

Just after the statement, the first direct flight to Mogadishu from Nairobi took off, signifying that Kenya had indeed decided to normalize ties with Somalia. Fundamentally, it's worthy to note that Qatar had tried to intervene but the solution didn't last for long before Kenya shut her skies.

"Djibouti has done more for Somalia than all of the rest of the Horn combined - since state collapse in 1991. Farmajo has now turned on Djibouti. Paints Guelleh as Enemy no 2 - after Kenya's Uhuru. In Somal/Islamic culture ingratitude is terrible behavior," Rashid Abdi, an analyst on Horn of Africa matters had said.

Djibouti is currently the chair of the Inter-governmental Authority and Development [IGAD] which steers development and security in the Horn of Africa. By holding the post, the country plays a vital role in mediating several countries in Africa.

As a major peace player in Africa, Djibouti has been the destination of many powerhouses including the US, whose army for Africa is domiciled in Djibouti. The Chinese have also stationed themselves in Djibouti with Russians also trying to take their position.


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