Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign nation has triggered bitter diplomatic protests from Somalia.
IGAD and the AU have urged de-escalation, emphasizing peace in the Horn of Africa. Kenyan MP Adan Keynan discusses with KFP why the conflict concerns Kenya and the East African community.
Q:What does Ethiopia recognising Somaliland as a sovereign nation mean to Kenya and the entire East African community?
A: First of all, you need to look at the history of Africa and in particular the scramble for Africa. Many African communities could have been placed in their present location through ethnic choice or general community interests.
Somalia has been bedeviled by social, political, economic and insecurity upheavals since 1991.
Somalia as a nation has therefore been disadvantaged for the last 30 years. This therefore means that the frontline states such as Kenya and Ethiopia bore the brunt of instability of Somalia.
Through regional initiatives such as the African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), there has been a stabilising force in Somalia.
The territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia is sacred and must be protected by all civilized nations because Somalia as per now is disadvantaged.
Q: What does this recognition mean to efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace to Somalia that has been plagued by conflicts for a very long time?
A: The deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland is therefore ill-timed, ill conceived, unconstitutional and non- implementable and risks opening floodgates for secessionists, breeds regional instability and directly puts into question mark the borders that many nations have inherited from colonial masters.
This is why Kenya as a leading nation both in the East African community must lead by example in saying No to interference with Somalia by any particular group.
Q: Do you think the port deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland is justified or it is exploitative?
A: This should not be about the port deal. The port is just a mere business venture, what we are questioning is the Somalia maritime interference by a regional country like Ethiopia.
Why will a sovereign state deal with another sovereign state without going through properly established protocols as the Vienna Protocol will demand and even IGAD as protocols will demand.
If at all the intent of Ethiopia was to get a way to the coastline, then they have a well and elaborate railway infrastructure from Djibouti to Ethiopia.
They also have elaborate road infrastructure through Eritrea and they are also part of the LAPSET project with Kenya. All this means their intention is not to access the sea but to expand their territory.
Q: What are the consequences should the two countries go to war?
A: There should be no war. I am glad that IGAD has called for a meeting in Kampala to seek a solution to the impasse this week.
Fortunately, Ethiopia’s action has been condemned by the Arab league, USA, UK and EAC member states. I think that unilateral decisions by Ethiopia will not stand the test of time.
Q: The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and African Union (AU) has called for restraint between the two counties and is observing the situation. Do you think there is more it should do to de-escalate the tension?
A: There has to be discussions because Ethiopia’s action was a unilateral decision by one country. The regional states are obligated by law to put it to Ethiopia that partitioning Somalia is not acceptable.
Q: Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has remained defiant that no one will nullify Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland despite resistance from several nations. What do you think are his main intentions?
A: He has an imperialist and expansionist attitude and this will not serve the interest of his country and the region and therefore should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. This is untimely and may plunge the whole region into a crisis.
Q: You and other leaders from Kenya’s northern region last week rejected Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland. It was seen as the official position of Kenya on this especially in diplomatic circles. Do you think Kenya should have an official position in this standoff?
A: We spoke as members of parliament who understand the geopolitics and dynamics of our foreign policy.
We stand for a peaceful driven foreign policy. Kenya has also been hosting many refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi and South Sudan.
Therefore, it is in the interest of Kenya to have a functioning, stable and democratic Somalia. We have the biggest refugee camps in northern Kenya, therefore being a frontline state this obligates us to be an agent of peace.
Q: Do you think the African Union should place this matter in its agenda in its forthcoming meeting?
A: The whole world is now seized of this issue. This is a matter that should be of great concern to all heads of states of civilized nations.
I cannot tell if this will inform the agenda of the AU meeting but I can bet this is a matter of concern.
Ethiopia itself has been having several challenges like the Tigray conflict, Oromia rebellion and other challenges.
I think Ethiopia’s Prime Minister is trying to use an external excuse to unify his people and I think this will not work.
Q: Do you think external powers or forces are behind the actions of Addis Ababa?
A: I do not know but there are two aspects to it, first there is recognised Somalia’s international maritime areas and then there are international waters.
The international community is aware that Somalia has had challenges and is obligated to protect it, secondly, the international community has an obligation to protect the international waters.
In both, the international community must have an interest and it must be of immense concern to the leadership of governments. I think that protecting the Somalia maritime area is protecting civility and recognizing sovereignty and territorial independence of Somalia.
Q: President William Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza administration have adopted an open door approach in their foreign affairs policy. How is this different from past governments?
A: The president is the interface between Kenya and the outside world. The head of all ministries enjoy delegated authority from the president.
The world has become a global village and when decisions are being made at the highest level, then things move faster than when it is made at the level of a clerk.
Ruto recently got a standing ovation at the European Union Parliament with close to over 700 legislators. We had the climate change conference in Nairobi and in Dubai, where Kenya emerged as the top country in greenification.
To make decisions, all countries that have succeeded from third world countries to real investment nations like Singapore and Korea needed pragmatic leadership.
That is what Kenya requires. The fear of the unknown shouldn’t be used to blind the tough and pragmatic decisions the president is currently undertaking. If Kenya’s opposition knows that the president is making mistakes, why can’t they wait for him to fail?
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