Breakaway regions at issue in Somalia-Kenya rift


Somalia severed diplomatic ties with neighboring Kenya Dec. 14, accusing it of violating Somali sovereignty and meddling in its internal affairs ahead of scheduled general elections. Although the statement cited no specific grievances, it came exactly as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was hosting in Nairobi the president of Somaliland, a breakaway region in Somalia’s northwest that declared independence in 1991. Kenyatta and Somaliland’s President Musa Bihi Abdi signed a pact on increased security and economic cooperation—which is clearly viewed by Mogadishu as a step toward formal recognition.

Two weeks earlier, on Nov. 30, Somalia ordered the expulsion of Kenya’s ambassador, accusing Nairobi of interfering in the electoral process in Jubaland, an autonomous region along the Kenyan border. Kenya maintains a military force of some 3,500 troops in Jubaland, where elections last year solidified the rule of the incumbent regional president, Ahmed Madobe, who is harshly at odds with Mogadishu.

National parliamentary elections in Somalia are to begin in the coming weeks, with a presidential vote to follow in early 2021. The campaign has heated up in recent weeks as candidates have accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who took office in 2017, of trying to cling to power by using the intelligence services to control the electoral process.

Somalia has sent a formal letter of complaint about Kenya to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African regional bloc. An IGAD summit to address the matter is to be held this weekend in Djibouti. (NYT, AFP, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, The Standard, The Standard, Nairobi)

Map: African Executive