Somalia to normalize relations with Kenya, after leaders meet in Nairobi

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Mogadishu, Somalia- Despite a raging maritime boundary disagreement, leaders of Kenya and Somalia on Thursday agreed to normalize relations at a meeting in Nairobi.

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Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo reaffirmed the invaluable relations between the two neighbours during a joint press conference after a closed-door meeting.

The Somali leader was part of world leaders who were in Kenya for the just-ended International Conference on Population and Development. This years’ was the 25th edition.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs chief, Monica Juma wrote on Twitter: “The two principals agreed to bring normality to our bilateral relations and do everything to ensure peaceful relations including obtaining visas on arrival to encourage free movement of our people.”

The Somali leader also expressed gratitude to Kenya for its role in AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission fighting insurgent group, Al-Shabaab and its role in sheltering Somali refugees fleeing conflict back home.

On the issue of the maritime boundary, Farmaajo said he had confidence that the International Court of justice, ICJ, seized with the matter will deliver a mutually acceptable resolution when it rules on the matter in the months ahead

Tensions escalated early this year when Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia after the Mogadishu government decided to auction the oil and gas exploration blocks at the center of the maritime territorial dispute. Somalia denied the accusation.

The statement on the Kenya presidency’s Twitter did not reference the oil dispute. It included a photo of the presidents of the two countries shaking hands.

The two leaders had met on September 24, but Somalia had insisted the rapprochement would not affect the ICJ case.   Through Somalia Presidency’s director of communications Abdinur Mohamed, Mogadishu said they had agreed to work towards normalising relations without any implications for the maritime case at the ICJ.

At the time, a Kenyan-Somali committee to negotiate the maritime border dispute was formed. The committee would start working towards “adopting measures for restoring confidence and resolving all problems so as to normalise bilateral relations”.

External pressure cannot be ruled out of these developments. US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter just last month told a local daily that the dispute “has to be addressed quickly.”

“We have been working to get President Farmaajo and President Kenyatta to come to the discussion table. I’ve been to Mogadishu to speak to the Somalia resident. I told him to pull off the court case,” Ambassador McCarter said.

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