The government of Kenya and even some times its citizens have harassed, humiliated, and debased Somalia and its citizens regardless of class, age, gender, and professional background.
In the 1990s and in the mid-2000, the Kenyan government broke all diplomatic considerations and shut its doors to travelers in and out of Somalia. We watched numerous videos of Kenyan soldiers whipping Somali civilians, debasing our women, and flocking innocent civilians under the guise of “war on terror.” Thus, I wrote this wailing personal essay after I watched a very disturbing video of harassment of Somalia by Kenyans.
Kenya seems to have schizophrenia when it comes to Somalia. On the one hand, there is this face of Kenya that gave shelter to so many Somalis since the 1990s civil war broke down that nation. It gave a temporary home to several hundred thousand refugees. It also looked the other way when thousands of businessmen and women, former government officers, professionals settled in Nairobi and Mombasa without papers. That is a fact that Somalis cannot deny. But, again there is this side of dark Kenya that pops up every time Somalia tries to assert its sovereign rights; Kenya takes punitive measures so as to ensure Somalia stay in the dark ditch of a stateless state. To do so, it often closes its airports to Somalis both civilians and regular travelers.
Kenya detained at its airport about five Somali ministers and parliamentarians who were traveling with Somalia’s diplomatic passports. The posthumous damage control in which Kenya’s foreign affairs concocted saying that Somali leaders came to the airport without a visa is cheap propaganda. This behavior has been a mainstay of Kenya’s government, infecting the highest office of this disturbed nation.
Not too long ago, it proposed to build a wall along the border of the two countries and divide the Somali speaking nomads on both sides of the border. As if all that was not enough, in 2019, it prematurely expelled Somalia’s mission in Nairobi without any proper diplomatic cause. It also detained Somali legislators, and high ranking government officials without any proper cause.
All this is happening for several reasons – that emanate from Kenya’s national interest:
1. Kenya has purposefully sabotaged Somalia to make sure that it does not regain its full sovereignty. By perpetuating a weak Somalia, Kenya can go into Somalia and conduct the operation at will goes the logic of Nairobi.
2. That Kenya plays an imperial role over Somalia and exploited its resources to the extent possible.
3. To Terrorize Somalia brings it into full submission to Kenyan wishes regarding the dispute over maritime ownership along the Indian Ocean.
Another wrinkle to the relation with Kenya is that a large number of Somalia’s elite (business people and some, former government and current officials including the current Prime Minister) have their families in Nairobi and Mombasa. In other words, Kenya holds Somalia in the “ball.”
A final but important leverage Kenya has over Somalia is this: Nairobi is the Mecca of the hidden hand that rules Somalia – international interlocutors and aid mafia that decide on Somalia’s fate chose Nairobi as their home. In essence, Somalia is put in a place where it cannot discharge its national duty both short term and a long term without Nairobi.
Kenya knows all this and it keeps playing hardball with Somalia.
What can Somalia do at this juncture? Can Somalia sacrifice its sovereignty and ownership of its maritime resources for the little comfort Kenya has given to refugees and the large middle class that opted to live in Nairobi rather than inside Somalia?
The answer must come from Villa Somalia, primarily from the maverick and reclusive President and the pompous and often flamboyant Prime Minister. Despite their shortcomings, the President and his Prime Minister cannot do this alone but need the hand of the regional leaders and the largely middle class, including those in the current government, that chose Nairobi and Mombasa as their homes.
In social media, several tools to even with Kenya are suggested:
1. Stop Kenya’s Qat (Khat) import to Somalia.
2. Demand that the world move from Nairobi donor offices and NGOs entities that work in Somalia.
3. Demand that Kenya is kicked out of AMISOM and bar it from working, entering, or having any function inside Somalia, including inside regional governments.
These are tough choices but may present to Somalia as the only tools available to earn the respect of its citizens.
By Faisal A. Roble
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.