By Prince Kurupati
In an unprecedented move, Kenya recently imposed a partial trade ban on Somalia while in the process closing one area that borders the two countries. Trade between Kenya and Somalia is done via four entry/exit points i.e. Lamu, Mandera, Wajir and Garissa Counties. However, only the latter three are still in use while Lamu has been closed.
As reported by Africa CGTN, Kenya says the decision was reached as security operations against Al Shabaab militants in the area intensified. The country is also trying to crack down on human trafficking as well as the trafficking of contraband goods and drugs.
The decision taken by Kenya also means that residents living in border villages have been prohibited from any cross-border trade.
Tensions have been boiling in recent weeks between Kenya and Somalia owing to a diplomatic rift over a maritime demarcation that is currently before the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in The Hague.
As according to North Africa Post the Kenya-Somalia maritime border disputed area is about 100,000 km2, forming a triangle east of the Kenyan coast. The Somalis want the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border.
In 2009, both countries agreed that the United Nations commission in charge of mediating border disputes should determine the borderline once and for all. They also agreed that they should continue to work together to find a solution so that the matter would not have to go to court.
Although Kenya and Somalia had agreed to settle the dispute out of court, Kenya appealed to the court in 2015. The court now wants to hear both sides first, before deciding whether it will initiate proceedings.
Political experts say the move taken by Kenya is a plot to pressure Mogadishu over the affair.
Speaking after the ban was imposed, Lamu County Police Commander, Mr. Muchangi Kioi warned shop owners selling commodities from Somalia or ferrying goods from Kenya to Somalia saying, “Those smuggling contraband items from Kenya into Somalia and vice versa will have themselves to blame. We will destroy those items and close your shop. We will also arrest and prosecute you.”
He went on to state that “We have already seized at least 10 bags of illegal sugar of Brazilian origin. They were purchased from Somalia by residents in Kiunga. I want to make it clear that it is an offence to engage in any manner of cross-border trade with those from Somalia.”
The Police Commander went on to state that “Apart from security concerns, we are also aware of human and narcotics trafficking. That must stop. It is now a crime and for those who do not know, the border remains closed until further notice.”
The decision to close the border comes a few weeks after Kenya denied Somali government officials to enter in Kenya.
Africa News reports that “In other maneuvers, Kenya imposed a double security check for travelers from Mogadishu who first had to be cleared at Wajir County before flying to say Nairobi. The Somali federal government has in response to the deportation of its officials called on Kenya to commit to a peaceful resolution of differences rather than use of such tactics.”
Reports state that trouble on the Lamu-Somalia border began in 2011 when Al Shabaab militants from Somalia abducted fishermen and tourists.