Kenyan President William Ruto bid farewell to Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya, Mohamoud Ahmed Nur, on November 15 at State House Nairobi.
Nur’s tenure was marked by frosty relations between Kenya and Somalia, characterized by accusations and counter-accusations.
The outgoing envoy, a former Mogadishu mayor and basketball star was often perceived as confrontational by foreign office officials, challenged Nairobi on various fronts, and this often caused diplomatic frictions between the two countries.
A senior foreign official who occasionally dealt with the envoy during his tenure called him “extremely negative” and “paranoid”.
In June 2022, Nur made headlines when he abruptly stormed out of a diplomatic luncheon hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
His departure was in protest of the presence of Mohamed Barwaani, a representative from Somaliland.
The incident stirred controversy, prompting back-channel diplomacy efforts from Nairobi, which expressed “regrets” for inviting a Somaliland official to the meeting.
A note from the foreign affairs ministry to the Somali embassy acknowledged the “inadvertent and inappropriate” display of the “Somaliland flag” at the meeting.
Nur’s objection stemmed from what he considered a violation, as Nairobi accorded similar diplomatic privileges to a Somaliland diplomat.
Somaliland, which declared independence 30 years ago, is recognized by Mogadishu as one of its federal states, although Kenya does not acknowledge Somaliland’s sovereignty.
A recent diplomatic misstep by Nairobi further fueled tensions between the two countries.
A circular indicating the nomination of ambassadors to both Mogadishu and Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, led to accusations of Kenya meddling in Somalia’s internal affairs.
In response, Kenya clarified that the appointment in Hargeisa was that of a Consul General, not an ambassador.
Relations between Kenya and Somalia reached a new low on December 15, 2022, when the Mogadishu government severed ties with Nairobi, citing “constant political violation and Kenya’s open interference in Somalia’s independence.”
The decision followed a meeting between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi at State House, Nairobi.
In the aftermath, Somalia recalled its diplomats and gave Kenyan diplomats seven days to leave Mogadishu.
The diplomatic fallout came shortly after Somaliland President Bihi’s state visit to Kenya, further complicating the relations that had worsened.
Another escalating diplomatic incident in 2019 saw Kenya ordering Nur to leave Nairobi and recalled Kenya’s envoy in Mogadishu, Lt. General (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo to the capital for ‘urgent’ consultations after the Somali government unilaterally auctioned off oil and gas blocks in a contested maritime area.
In a statement read by Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau, Kenya claimed the auction took place in London, United Kingdom, on 7th February, 2019.
The strongly worded statement termed the auction as, “unparalleled affront” with Nairobi vowing that the “illegal grab” will not go unanswered.
“This outrageous and provocative action deserves and will be met with a unanimous and resounding rejection by all Kenyans as well as all people of goodwill who believe in the maintenance of international law and order and the peaceful and legal resolution of disputes,” read part of the statement.
According to Nairobi, Mogadishu auctioned the contentious blocks to the “highest predatory” bidders from the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and Norway after a map showing the area in question belonging to Somalia was shown at a London conference.
Then Foreign PS Macharia Kamau said Nairobi protested by sending an official diplomatic note to the Ambassador of Somalia in Kenya.
“It is, therefore, most regretful that the Government of Kenya has now arrived at the conclusion that its protest and demands that Kenya sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected, have been ignored,”.
In the hard-hitting statement, there was a sense of betrayal with Nairobi reminding Mogadishu how Kenya had stood by the troubled neighbour by sending its armed forces to support Somali’s army to fight Al Shabaab.
“Kenya has paid an unparalleled price for its generosity and hospitality without ever asking for anything in return. The lives of Kenyans lost owing to Kenya’s commitment to international peace and security remain a fresh memory in the minds of Kenyans and a painful remainder of the high cost of good neighborliness and international corporate responsibility,”.
During the farewell meeting, President Ruto acknowledged the historical ties between Kenya and Somalia, emphasizing shared cultural bonds and robust business connections.
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