Kenya-Somalia relations to weather maritime border feud



This week, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau responds to your questions:


1. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is expected to deliver its ruling on the Kenya-Somalia maritime boundary dispute soon. Whichever way the ruling goes, do you think it can normalise relations between the two countries? Lawrence Majani, Nairobi

Kenya and Somalia have normal relations. In fact, Kenya is one of Somalia’s benefactors in political, economic, social and humanitarian terms. The issue of maritime border has indeed created some tensions, but these tensions are not unusual in terms of international boundary disputes.

We are only disappointed that Somalia has decided to take an aggressive legalistic stance that ignores United Nations, African Union and traditional bilateral negotiation mechanisms.

These mechanisms are important because they show respect for strengthening good neighbourliness.

It is also unfortunate that the matter of maritime boundary has been hijacked for the narrow local domestic politics of Somalia.

Kenya would like to see the maritime boundary issue resolved in the same fashion we have resolved our boundary issues with all our other neighbours.

2. Former Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in June 2015 shocked the Senate Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations that despite training in our country, no locals, not even the President, can access British Army Training Unit’s facilities. Is this prohibition on locals covered by Kenya’s agreement with Britain? If not, what is your ministry doing about it? T. N. Mwangi-Mohuhi

All defence agreements have mutually agreed terms. Any foreign military base on Kenyan soil is open and operated on mutually agreed terms in which Kenya has the final word.

Access to military facilities, whether local or foreign, is facilitated through these terms. There is no reason that Kenyan officials cannot enter a foreign base in Kenya on these mutually agreed terms.

3. What is the government’s position on the tiff with Somalia and how has it affected the relations between the two countries? Ahmed Hussein Omar, Garissa

I believe this question is answered in the first instance of the first question.

The only additional matter is that it is important to emphasise that there is no struggle over resources.

There is only the challenge posed by the current Somalia administration over the maritime boundary.

For Kenya, this matter is about territorial integrity, respecting historical boundary and Kenya’s constitutional obligations.

4. Since December 2013 when violence broke out in South Sudan, several peace agreements have been signed and quickly trashed by the elites who propagate the violence and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Even the latest agreement — “Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS)” — seems to be faltering as the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), which was to be formed by mid-May, has not been formed. What is delaying the full implementation of R-ARCSS? As a key player in Igad and the South Sudan peace process, do you think it will get to a point when guarantors like Kenya will suffer fatigue over failure by South Sudan leaders to implement lasting peace? Fred Matano, Kitale

There is no price high enough to pay for peace. Moreover, one cannot suffer fatigue pursuing the peace of a neighbour, and particularly a neighbour who by virtue of their size, their proximity and promise, is deserving of support.

Kenya has to remain faithful to the struggle to bring peace to South Sudan for various reasons; the most important of which being that it is inherently important for the people of South Sudan who have suffered greatly over the last 50 years.

Peace is equally important for the people of Kenya because having a nation at a war with itself along our border poses difficulties that disrupt our own development.

Witness the situation in Somalia. Furthermore, the promise of peace in South Sudan, if managed in a positive way with inspired leadership and good governance, promises great things not just for South Sudanese people but also Kenyans and Kenya’s prosperity.

5. In 2013, some newly-elected governors had hatched a plot to open Foreign Liaison Offices to, among others, directly solicit funding for their counties. What informed the national government resolution to block that move? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

All unified republics retain the right to execute foreign relations and national defence with the central government apparatus.

In this regard Kenya is no different. This is informed by the need to maintain national security and republican integrity of the State.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 stipulates that foreign policy and its management is the sole function of the national government and that only the President has the mandate appoint diplomatic representatives abroad.

As regards external borrowing all loans and grants sought and received on behalf of the Republic of Kenya, they must be processed through the National Treasury.

The work of foreign embassies in Kenya and their relations with counties is moderated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior. Any relationships that go outside that framework are not only totally illegal but also unwelcome.

6. Over the years, Kenyans have observed that the number of non-career diplomats appointed as ambassadors and high commissioners has gone up significantly, leading many career diplomats stagnating at the ministry headquarters. Given your long experience in foreign affairs, how are these people, including politicians, retired military officers and heads of parastatals, going to deliver to promote the interests of Kenya in foreign countries? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

Originally, when States first began deploying ambassadors and high commissioners, they were all either aristocrats, military officers, political people or merchants.

The era of professional career ambassadors and high commissioners is a recent development of the 20th century.

It is now international practice for States to deploy ambassadors from cadres of ex-politicians and businesspeople from the private sector as well as ambassadors from career disciplines including from, but not exclusively, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

7. You have not been as fierce in your defence of Kenya’s territorial interests (Migingo Island) as you were in New York when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto faced crimes against humanity charges at the Hague-based International Criminal Court, at least not publicly. Why? Mulang’o Baraza, Nairobi

Diplomacy is about modulated engagement. It is also about picking your battles. The ICC matter by its very nature required the methods that were deployed.

Migingo and the challenge it poses is well-managed within the normal context of our diplomatic relations with the neighbouring country.

It is never wise to be fierce with a neighbour unless the threat is existential.

8. Has Kenya ever considered referring the dispute between Kenya and Uganda over Migingo Island to either the International Court of Justice or even use the East African Court of Justice to resolve the long running dispute? Paul Gesimba, Nairobi

No, and that will never arise because Kenya and Uganda have good diplomatic relations that allow for fraternal resolutions for such matters.

9. Statistics indicate that millions of youths remain unemployed despite being educated. Although Kenyans working in the Middle East and South Sudan have experienced challenges in the past, this can never stop the need for us to export our idle workforce. What deliberate policies has your ministry enacted to facilitate this matter? Komen Moris, Eldoret

The primary responsibility for government is to continue to expand employment opportunities in Kenya. This is what the President’s Big Four Agenda is all about.

Secondly, Kenya is part of an international community and as such Kenyans can work anywhere in the world where they can find employment.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs works to seek opportunities and create an environment for that to happen.

In this regard, the government has signed several bilateral labour agreements (Blass) with countries in the Middle East such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, State of Qatar and Kuwait.

These Blass stipulate employment contract, rights and responsibilities of employees, mechanisms for resolving disputes, and enforcement provisions of the contract.

The government has also established the National Employment Authority (NEA) whose mandate is to identify job opportunities abroad and placing of Kenyans through private recruitment agencies.

To safeguard Kenyans from exploitation, the government has systematically vetted these recruitment agencies, which previously numbered as high as 1,050. Currently only 153 agencies are authorised to recruit and place Kenyans abroad for employment.

10. From 2013, President Kenyatta has been deliberate in pursuing economic diplomacy as a way to spur economic growth in Kenya. How successful has this been? Komen Moris, Eldoret

Economic diplomacy is not a zero sum game. Our work with the countries from the West and from the East is a win-win proposition for all Kenyans.

It is also imperative to reflect on the fact that among our largest trading partners are our immediate neighbours, Uganda and Tanzania.

We talk a lot about China and the western countries, yet it is true our economic salvation will come from our neighbours in Africa.

Our economic diplomacy therefore is more focussed on closer collaboration within the East African Community and the ‘Grand Tripartite Free Area’ (SADC, EAC and Comesa), which are all pillars of the newly launched Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), a key project for Africa’s integration.

11. Kenya recently opened a diplomatic mission in Kingston, Jamaica. How will this particular investment help Kenyans? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

Kenya has not opened a new mission in Jamaica, but has accredited its ambassador in Havana, Cuba, to be the non-resident High Commissioner to Jamaica.

This creates a new channel of direct communication to deliver the strong requisite political goodwill for expansion of bilateral cooperation.

12. Despite many high level diplomatic talks, some at the level of presidents, the process of securing a visa to South Africa still remains as difficult as it has always been. For how long will we play the nice guy when our citizens are treated like children of a lesser god by South Africa? Joy Amunge, Nairobi

Kenya continues to be committed to working with South Africa on promoting and maintaining a visa-free regime between the two countries.

It is Kenya’s aspiration to have this visa-free regime with all countries of Africa, including South Africa.

Kenya has made progress on this matter with South Africa, particularly as regards the travel of Kenya’s officials and diplomats who now are now able to receive visas on arrival.

We have also noticed faster processing of visa requests for Kenyans by the South African High Commission.


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