This action effectively ends a 12-year barricade that started in 2011 when Kenya began Operation Linda Nchi to combat the influx of Al-Shabaab fighters into the nation. It was announced by Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh after high-level consultations in Nairobi.
“We have resolved that the border between Kenya and Somalia will be reopened in phases. First to open is Bula Hawa in Mandera in 30 days. Next is Liboi (Mandera) in 60 days and Ras Kamboni (Lamu) in 90 days,” CS Kindiki said. The cabinet secretary also added that the Kenyan government is also mulling adding a fourth border post in Wajir County.
“Border communities in both countries have so much in common. There is a need to strengthen cross-border communication,” CS Kindiki noted, adding that in order to maintain the stability of the two neighboring countries, Kenya and Somalia would continue to cooperate.
“Our two countries are in agreement on modalities. We will undertake internal consultation on strategies of securing gains made through our partnership,” he added.
The two ministers stated in a joint statement that their conversations focused on the necessity of sharing cross-border intelligence and improving law enforcement’s ability to man the borders.
They also talked about strategies for building modern, safe border infrastructure that would ease trade, mobility, and human movement.
The project, called “Deris Wanaag,” which is Somali for “Good Neighbourliness,” is supported by the UK and aims to find a long-term solution to the ongoing insecurity and instability caused by Al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa area. With a budget of around Ksh1.7 billion ($12 million), the initiative will last for three years with the goal of enhancing regional security and battling extremism.
The Kenyan government increased border security when the Somali government declared an all-out assault on Al-Shabaab in August of last year in order to stop an influx of escaping terrorists into Kenya.
The Rwandan government also started a fresh initiative on Thursday of last week to reopen its border with Ethiopia, which had also been the target of strikes by Shabaab in June of last year.
In the African Union’s military campaign against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, which has been conducting a bloody insurgency in Somalia for more than 15 years, Kenya is a significant soldier provider.
A maritime boundary dispute, Somali charges of Kenyan intervention in its affairs, and Nairobi’s suspicions that Mogadishu is using it as a scapegoat for its own political and security issues have all strained relations between the two countries.
After Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway province that is not recognized by the central government in Mogadishu, Somalia broke diplomatic ties in December 2020. Since then, there has been a thawing in their relationship; last year, the two nations resumed diplomatic relations.