Somalia on Tuesday deployed troops on its common border with Kenya, hours after severing diplomatic relations with Nairobi in the latest escalation of a spat between the two countries.
In Mandera, residents reported sighting Somalia National Army (SNA) troops taking strategic positions along the common border.
“We have woken up just to see military officers from Somalia taking positions along the border and this is worrying us a lot,” said Ali Abdille, a resident of Mandera.
The SNA deployment forced some locals to start moving out of their homes.
This came after Somalia ordered Kenyan diplomats to leave the country within seven days, accusing Nairobi of meddling in its politics as protests and gunfire erupted in the capital Mogadishu over delayed elections.
Somalia’s move to cut diplomatic ties with Kenya followed the invitation of Somaliland leader Muse Bihi to Nairobi.
We discussed a number of subjects of mutual interest with the President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, today at the State House in Nairobi. We are grateful to H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for their warm welcome during this Official Visit. pic.twitter.com/tQlVDxdYR4
— Muse Bihi Abdi (@musebiihi) December 14, 2020
On Tuesday evening, Kenya appeared unperturbed by the decision by Mogadishu to cut ties, announcing plans to open a consulate in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland, and direct flights by Kenyan airlines, including Kenya Airways.
Kenya declared an “unwavering commitment” to deepen cordial bilateral ties with Somaliland, a region of Somalia that has declared independence since 1991, but which no other African nation has endorsed, even though it is routinely treated as one.
A dispatch following a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi said Nairobi would proceed to open a consulate in Hargeisa, joining Ethiopia and Djibouti.
The dispute could undermine cooperation in the fight against the Islamist group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, where Kenya provides 3,600 troops to an African Union peacekeeping force.
A senior security officer in Mandera confirmed the arrival of the Somalia military officers along the common border.
“We have information of what is happening along the border but that is an issue that will be decided by other higher offices in Nairobi,” said our source who sought anonymity.
Osman Dubbe, the Somali Minister for Information, announced the move to cut ties with Nairobi on national TV a few minutes to 2 a.m., breaking the tradition of countries making such pronouncements during the day. Mr. Dubbe said Kenya had “constantly interfered” with Somalia’s internal affairs and that Nairobi was violating Somalia’s sovereignty.
Last month, Somalia expelled Kenya’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy after alleging interference in the electoral process in Jubbaland, one of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states. Also last year, Kenya recalled its ambassador after Mogadishu decided to auction disputed oil and gas exploration blocks at sea. Ties were restored a few months later.
The new diplomatic flare-up came as anti-government protests broke out in Mogadishu, according to Reuters reports.
Demonstrators denounced President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – usually known by his nickname “Farmaajo” (cheese) – over delayed votes for both houses of parliament.
The polls were due early this month but became snagged on disagreements over the composition of the electoral board.