Somalia and Kenya badly need each other. First, the two countries share a largely porous border running for a whole 1,000 kilometres, which exposes both to the threat of attacks by al-Shabaab terrorists. Secondly, Kenya have an interest in seeing the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the war-torn country to pave the way for increased economic cooperation and mutually beneficial trade.
For several years now, the Kenya Defence Forces have been pivotal in the fight against al-Shabaab in order to entrench the internationally recognised government in Mogadishu. This has not been a walk in the park. Kenya has made huge sacrifices to help bolster the Mogadishu administration, including bearing heavy loss of soldiers in engagements with al-Shabaab.
The work is not even half-way done and, therefore, this is the wrong time for Nairobi and Mogadishu to begin squabbling. The source of the new conflict is the territorial boundary in the Indian Ocean, which Kenya wants solved outside the courts. On their part, the Somalis have sought the arbitration of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Granted, Somalia has every right to seek arbitration in international instruments to safeguard its territorial integrity. However, an escalation of the dispute would have serious repercussions on regional co-operation projects and the security challenge posed by the terrorists out to oust the Mogadishu Government.
The mediation by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deserves to be supported. Kenyan and Somali leaders also need to restore diplomatic normality by having their envoys resume duty. Kenya has done a lot for Somalia, including hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Somalia. As it entrenches itself while battling al-Shabaab, Mogadishu cannot afford to antagonise its neighbour.
As things stand, there is need to give priority to the war on terror. It is a common enemy that could ruin whatever interests both countries may be seeking to protect in the current standoff.
Sources: Daily Nation