Kenya to re-open Somalia border after 10-year shutdown

Mandera (Caasimada Online) – Kenya has taken a significant step towards improving its relations with Somalia by announcing it will reopen the Mandera border post with Somalia to enhance border security and combat the smuggling of goods used to fund terrorism.

The country’s Internal Security Minister, Kithure Kindiki, has directed county security teams to work with government agencies, including customs and immigration, to assess the requirements needed to renovate the border post and begin operations again.

The Mandera crossing, along with those in Lamu, Wajir, and Garissa, was closed by Kenya in 2012 in an effort to prevent incursions by al-Shabab militants operating from Somalia. Despite the closures, people have continued illegally crossing the border and smuggling goods.

Enhancing border security in Northeastern Kenya

In order to address these security concerns, Minister Kindiki has tasked the county security team with identifying armed militants in the border region and working with political leaders and community elders to plan security operations.

During a recent security tour in Mandera and Wajir counties, Kindiki emphasized the importance of community leaders and elders in these efforts.

This move will significantly impact trade and commerce between the two countries and is expected to boost economic growth in the region.

Al-Shabab attacks in Northeastern Kenya

The northeast region of Kenya has suffered a series of attacks by al-Shabab militants in recent years. The deadliest attack occurred in 2015 when the group killed nearly 150 people at Garissa University College.

Al-Shabab has been active in Kenya since 2011 when the country first contributed troops to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Reopening the Mandera border post is seen as a crucial step in improving security in the region and preventing the flow of smuggled goods that fund terrorism.

Improving relations after years of tensions

The relationship between the two countries has been improving in recent months after being strained for several months due to a maritime border dispute.  In 2021, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) finally ruled in favor of Somalia, but Kenya rejected the ruling and the dispute has continued to be a source of tension between the two nations.

Despite this setback, both countries were determined to improve relations and resolve the issue.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, upon his re-election, sought to improve relations between Somalia and Kenya. He visited Kenya twice, meeting with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and newly elected President William Ruto.

During the bilateral talks, both countries reached several agreements, one of which was Somalia lifting the ban on Khat and Kenya committing to facilitate the entry and movement of Somali citizens.

The reopening of the first border post between Kenya and Somalia after more than a decade is a positive step towards improving relations and boosting economic growth in the region.