Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has joined several leaders in Mogadishu to witness the inauguration of Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
President Kenyatta landed in Mogadishu shortly after 10 am local time, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo, Agriculture’s Peter Munya and Eugene Wamalwa of Devolution.
Mr Kenyatta will join other regional heads like Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Djibouti leader Omar Ismael Guelleh.
Other countries like Uganda, Egypt, South Sudan, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also sent strong delegations in a signal of relations ahead.
All the presidents of Somalia’s federal states—Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland—are already in Mogadishu for the event.
The capital was locked down on Wednesday night as the country tightened security ahead of the event.
For Mr Kenyatta, this trip is significant because it is the first time he is in Mogadishu since Somalia resumed diplomatic ties with Kenya last year in June, following a six-month standoff between the two countries.
Kenya and Somalia also have a maritime dispute which the International Court of Justice last October ruled in favour of Mogadishu but whose decision Nairobi rejected.
Incidentally, the case was filed in Mohamud’s first term in office in 2014 when he led the country between 2012 and 2017. Mohamud has, however, promised to lead a Somalia “at peace with itself and the world,” signalling a conciliatory tone.
Peter Munya's travel to Mogadishu is also significant because he had earlier been accused of interfering in the country's affairs back in 2016. As Meru Governor then, he had controversially approached the breakaway region of Somaliland to buy Kenyan miraa, banned in Somalia, ostensibly in return for lobbying for the region's recognition as an independent state. Mogadishu then under Mohamud's administration accused him of trying to break up Somalia.
Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also troop contributors to the AU forces, African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis).