Kenya-Somali row: Has a phone call brought peace?

Kenya-Somali row: Has a phone call brought peace?

Hundreds of residents of Mandera in north-eastern Kenya near Somalia have fled the area in the aftermath of clashes between warring troops across the border.

This comes a day after the Kenyan and Somali presidents spoke by phone and agreed to resolve the escalating tensions between the two countries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” spoke on Thursday after the Kenyan leader accused Somalia of an “unwarranted attack” on its territory.

The Kenyan president was referring to clashes between Somali government forces and its regional troops in Bula Hawa, which spilled across the border into Mandera.

He warned Somalia to stop provoking Kenya by violating its territorial integrity, saying the Somali army had fought on Kenyan land, creating tension and harassing residents.

A week ago, Somalia accused Kenya of meddling in its internal affairs and warned it to stop its encroachment in the border areas. Kenya denied the claims as “baseless and invalid”.

The two leaders have now agreed to work together to improve border security and form two committees drawn from both countries to look into strengthening diplomatic and trade relations.

According to a statement from Somalia’s presidential team, the committees would also look into strengthening diplomatic and trade relations.

Will the calm last?

Dr. Hassan Khannenje, the director of the Horn International Institute of Strategic Studies in Nairobi, says while the call was an attempt to de-escalate the situation, the calm is unlikely to last.

Somalia and Kenya presidents Mohamed Farmajo and Uhuru Kenyatta
Image captionThe leaders of Somalia and Kenya agreed to resolve tensions between the two countries

Dr. Khannenje says that while the situation may calm down, for now, it could blow up again at any time, especially because of the ongoing maritime boundary dispute.

He also says the fundamental political issues in Somalia, including the al-Shabab question, will not be resolved any time soon.

In the meantime, tension remains high along the border, with the warring troops still present.

So what are the issues that have soured Somalia’s relations with Kenya in recent times?

The maritime dispute

The two countries have been locked in a long-running dispute over the sovereignty of an oil-rich area in the Indian Ocean,

Both countries claim the area – thought to contain large deposits of oil and gas.

Kenya has argued the sea border should be drawn parallel to the line of latitude, while Somalia saying it should be extended in the same direction as its land border.

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