Somalia’s attempts to have Kenya reprimanded at the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), fell through after leaders at the Summit largely disagreed with severance of diplomatic ties.
Instead, the heads of state and government gathered in Djibouti City on Sunday asked Somalia to focus on the electoral calendar as well as reconciliation and security programmes in the country.
Somalia had demanded that an independent team from Igad be sent on the common border of the two countries, where Somalia has alleged Kenya is aiding Somali militia, a charge Nairobi denies.
The 38th Extraordinary Summit of Igad was meant to discuss regional security challenges, humanitarian situation in Tigray as well as the rising Covid-19 infections in the region, which had so far reached 290,000 with more than 5,300 deaths.
But the meeting was preceded by a series of protests from Somalia, including cutting ties with Kenya, accusing Nairobi of interference in Mogadishu affairs. Mogadishu had also written to Igad's Chairman, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, seeking to have the issue placed on agenda.
“IGAD leaders have been pressing Somalia to resolve the Kenyan issue within IGAD, through dialogue and consensus. The first step will be to stabilise the situation and the crisis,” Mohamed Abdirazak, Somalia’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, said in Mogadishu on Monday.
“Somalia has agreed to that, but we have a condition that a team be appointed to address the issues that Somalia is complaining about,” he told a press conference.
The official communique issued on Monday morning did not indicate the tiff among issues discussed. Instead, they discussed Somalia’s own political calendar and political reconciliation programmes, asking that the processes in Somalia must be “Somali-led and Somali-owned” based on the September 17 Agreement between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States’ leaders.
“Further noting the importance of implementing the Agreement, [The Assembly] called upon the Federal Government, Federal Member States and other stakeholders to resolve any electoral management disputes through confidence and consensus-building in a manner that respects the spirit of the Dhusamareb process…
“And the Agreement of 17th September 2020 on the revised election model as well as implementation protocols, so that timely elections embraced by the Somalia people can take place.”
Dhusamareb in Galmudug state was the venue where the agreement was signed, providing deadlines under which the appointment of polling officials and their training, selection of delegates for voting in MPs as well as the election itself was to happen.
According to the agreement, MPs in both Houses should be elected by December 26. But most of the deadlines have been missed and Somalia’s opposition leaders have demanded a review of polling officials, arguing they are mostly biased.
Last week, as opposition leaders and their supporters protested the lack of compromise, Somalia went ahead to cut ties with Nairobi and accused Nairobi of ‘arming militia’ in Somalia.
At the meeting in Djibouti, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Djibouti’s Ismael Guelleh, Somalia’s Mohamed Farmaajo and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gathered on the sidelines to discuss the issue.
They agreed that each country’s territorial integrity is paramount but disagreed with Somalia’s aggressive decision to sever diplomatic ties, instead urging parties to re-engage. They warned the lack of cooperation between the two leaders could encourage al-Shabaab to thrive and effectively ruin the electoral programme, according to sources at Igad.
The matter was left out the formal agenda just as the one between Sudan and Ethiopia’s border clashes was also left to bilateral talks.
At the start of the formal session, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat warned the antagonism between the two countries jeopardise regional security.
Instead, Mr Mahamat said Somalia and Kenya should resolve their differences through dialogue, so us to ensure the regional cooperation against al-Shabaab and other challenges are is not disrupted.
“Kenya, it should be noted, is a Troop-Contributing Country to AMISOM, and hosts a large community of Somali refugees,” Faki said referring to the African Union forces in Somalia, to which Kenya Defence Forces have sent troops. Known as the African Union Mission in Somalia, the forces are meant to stabilise the country and work under the mandate of the UN Security Council.
“I’m convinced that the long-standing and strong links between the two countries and peoples can overcome the current challenges.”
Igad brings together the East African nations of Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda.
The leaders also encouraged Somalia to continue holding talks with the breakaway region of Somaliland.
On Monday, Somalia’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirazak told local media the relations with Kenya will remain severed.