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Somalia breaks off diplomatic relations with Kenya

This statement comes shortly after Somaliland's President Muse Bihi Abdi's official visit to Nairobi
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REUTERS/FEISAL OMARAR  -   The President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo

Somalia has decided, this very Tuesday, to break off diplomatic relations with Kenya. This shocking news has been communicated through the state television SNTV where the Somali minister Osman Abukar Dubbe, explained that the executive took the decision "in response to the repeated political abuses and the flagrant interference of the Kenyan government in the sovereignty of our country".

This statement came shortly after the official visit of the President of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, to Nairobi, the neighbouring country where he met with senior Kenyan government officials.

Somaliland is not internationally recognized, but declared its independence unilaterally on 18 May 1991, after being part of Somalia for 31 years. This new republic, despite not being internationally recognised, has its own constitution, currency and government, and even better economic development and political stability than Somalia, helped by the influence of a dominant clan.

Bihi Abdi, the president of Somalilandai, landed last Sunday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where he was received by the ministers of agriculture, Peter Munya, and foreign affairs, Ababu Namwamba. In response to this visit Somalia has given the order to break off all diplomatic relations with the neighbouring country and has demanded the departure of all its diplomats within a maximum period of seven days, while it will withdraw its own diplomatic personnel from Kenya in a week.

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Somali Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe stressed that "The Federal Government of Somalia guarantees the independence, sovereignty and unity of the Somali people through the Constitution, laws and international law. The government will not compromise on the freedom, independence and sovereignty of the Somali people".

"The Somali Government considers the people of Kenya as a peace-loving community that wishes to live in harmony with other societies in the region. But Kenya's current leaders are working to separate the two sides," the minister explained.

Relations between the two countries have been strained for some time. Recently Somalia ordered the expulsion of Kenya's ambassador to the country, as it considered that Nairobi was interfering in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2021.

Similarly, Somalia has been accusing Kenya of interfering with its borders for months. And the visit of Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, to the neighbouring country has been perceived as support for this new, unrecognised republic.

Kenya, for its part, is one of the main contributors of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation that fights Al-Shabaab, Islamist militants who are waging a violent insurgency throughout Somalia while attempting to overthrow the internationally supported government of Mogadishu.

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REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR  - Peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Mogadishu

The spokesman for the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cyrus Oguna, has stated that Kenya has been "very kind and accommodating" to some 200,000 Somalis living in the refugee camps in eastern Kenya.

"We have a lot of common ground between these two countries, and anything that could undermine that is, of course, something that we should strive to ensure is resolved," he said.

This is not the first time that the uneasy relationship between Kenya and Somalia has ended on such bad terms. The two countries agreed to "normalise" relations and to start issuing travel visas to their citizens in November 2019, following a long-running dispute over maritime borders.

These countries have become embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean which both nations consider to contain valuable oil and gas deposits. The dispute over which nation controls access to the lucrative deposits intensified at the beginning of 2019 after Somalia decided to auction off blocks of oil and gas in a disputed maritime area, leading Kenya to withdraw its ambassador from Mogadishu in February that year.