Nairobi (Caasimada Online) – Kenyan President William Ruto has outlined his regional diplomatic strategy, including his willingness to work with Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to fight against the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Speaking on Wednesday, Ruto emphasized the importance of stability in the region, saying, “If this region becomes unstable, it will have a significant negative impact on our economy.” He also highlighted Kenya’s solid economic position as the largest economy in the region.
“We are not only working with the president of Somalia, but we are also thrilled that he is now consolidating even with other regional presidents in Somalia so that we jointly attack the al-Shabab menace,” said Ruto.
“We are pleased that we have some agreement and are working together. We both recognize that al-Shabab is a problem for Somalia and us, and we cannot ignore or walk away from this challenge. We need to address it together.”
In a meeting with President Mohamud on September 14, 2022, the two leaders discussed the security challenges of Somalia and the Horn of Africa region, both of which have been targeted by al-Shabab.
Ruto also announced plans to fast-track the Joint Commission for Cooperation implementation between Kenya and Somalia. This will increase trade in Miraa, a stimulant plant, and fish while easing movement between the two nations.
Kenya is currently among the countries whose troops are serving in Somalia under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
Kenya and Somalia have a complex relationship with a long history of cooperation and conflict. One major point of contention between the two countries was the disputed maritime border in the Indian Ocean.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Somalia in the long-standing maritime border dispute with Kenya in 2021.
The ICJ determined that the border should be adjusted so that Somalia would be granted rights to most of the oil-rich region in the Indian Ocean. Kenya rejected the ruling, and the dispute has continued to be a source of tension between the two countries.
In addition to the maritime dispute, trade in the stimulant plant khat, also known as miraa in Kenya, has also been a point of friction between the two countries.
Somalia is Kenya’s largest market for khat, but the Somali government suspended the importation of the crop when international flights were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the ban has since been lifted, Somali authorities have imposed conditions keeping Kenyan khat traders out of business. This has led to further tensions between the two countries.