Kenya steers clear out of Somali crisis but plays underground role
NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya, one of Somalia's neighbors, has steered clear out of the Horn of Africa nation's crisis but is believed to be calling shots from the background perhaps to avoid conflict of interest following months of accusations and counter-accusations.
After playing hard, Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo agreed to renounce his term extension following pressure from International Community, which warned that the Lower House's decision to extend the term was "null and void".
While many countries have openly discussed the current political stalemate, Kenya has been a little bit cautious, often choosing to use internationally mandated bodies to call shots on the current political situation in Somalia.
Farmajo has accused Kenya of interference but Nairobi stayed out of the chaos, with some diplomats telling the Nation it was not worthy disagreeing with a politician in the middle of a self-inflicted crisis.
Yet Nairobi has pulled levers in the international scene, both within the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.
Instead, Kenya has chosen to use the African Union and the United Nations Security Council [UNSC] where it calls shots, opposing plans to extend the current mandate of the federal government. Nairobi has been pushing for a resumption of talks.
After the meeting of the Coordinating Committee [MOCC] of Troop Contribution Countries to the African Union Mission in Somalia [Amisom], the group declared it was totally opposed to Farmaajo’s ways, and raised doubts on the unity of Somali forces to remain out of politics.
They directed Amisom to remain neutral as an emergency safety valve against a polarized military in Somalia.
“Importantly, the MOCC stressed that Amisom should avoid being drawn into partisan politics in Somalia and remain neutral vis-à-vis the various political factions and parties, in order to effectively facilitate the demilitarisation of Mogadishu and environs,” the committee said in a dispatch after their meeting chaired by Bankole Adeoye, the Nigerian diplomat who is the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security.
“MOCC underscored that the current crisis in Somalia is primarily political, even though it has grave ramifications for both the security situation and military operations.”
Amisom received military and police troops from Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Earlier in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta had a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson where they shared “concerns on the unfolding political situation in Somalia and resolved to work more closely through the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth, and other multilateral platforms to ensure regional peace and stability,” according to a dispatch from State House.
The phone call would be followed by a trip by British Ambassador to Somalia Kate Foster to Nairobi, where she held a meeting with Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.
“She briefed me on the current developments in Somalia and we reaffirmed commitment to strengthen our partnership in the pursuit of sustainable security in Somalia,” Dr. Juma wrote on her Twitter page after the meeting.
Observers think the involvement of Kenya is mostly because Nairobi is both a member of the AU Peace and Security Council as well as the UN Security Council; crucial bodies charged with monitoring threats to security.
But it could also point to Nairobi’s relative stability and a realization that Farmaajo had always been the wrong horse to back.
“It is a positive thing on the part of Kenya. It implies the strength of Nairobi in the region especially when the neighborhood goes haywire,” said Macharia Munene, Professor of History and International Relations at USIU-Africa.
Also, Kenya held talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, with President Uhuru Kenyatta emphasizing the need for stability in the Horn of Africa nation. Kenya has been having a hot and cold relationship with Somalia, ranging from KDF actions in Jubaland to controversial maritime border row.
Despite often cutting ties with Kenya, Farmajo has not come out clearly to condemn Nairobi. But through proxies, he has often accused Kenya of sponsoring opposition teams in the Horn of Africa nation.