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Kenya in Fresh Dispute with Tanzania, Somalia

Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi (Left) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (Right): Photo Courtesy

Kenya’s tenacious trade squabble with neighbors may be the reason behind the region’s inter-country diisputes, which could require political solutions.

Two of Kenya’s next-door neighbors, Somalia and Tanzania, have stalled business ventures for Kenyans over an alleged bad policy by Nairobi.
Tanzania called off landing rights for three more airlines, Air Kenya, Fly540, and Safarilink Aviation after Kenya insisted Tanzanians arriving in the country must be put in isolation for 14 days.

The bygone of miraa ban also resumed last week after a delegation of farmers’ representatives returned empty-handed, causing tension between Kenya and Somalia. The representative had traveled to seek an audience with Somalia officials only to meet a list of demands, which included a tax charge of $4 per kilo.

In the list of demand, the Somali officials also wanted Kenya to treat it as an equal partner, stop violating Somali airspace, and that it should allow in Somalia goods including fish, rice, sugar, honey, meat, and milk. But the miraa tale has always been political.

The farmers were told that they will not sell miraa in Somalia unless the Kenyan authorities allow in Somalia flights from Mogadishu without a stop at Wajir for security checks.

A number of diplomats in Nairobi have said that the demands given to the farmers were ridiculous considering that Somalia’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad was in Nairobi for a series of bilateral meetings but never raised them.

Reportedly there is no communication problem between Somalia and Kenya and to conflate issues of security and trade is not an idea either side wants. A source familiar to the issues says that there has never been any problem because whenever bilateral issues come up, they often sit down to discuss them.

Nairobi has had a month-long standoff with Tanzania, which has led some analysts to think the region, despite having integration blocs, may be harboring different ambitions.

The current Somalia government is allegedly felt to be full of itself and does not need Kenya and Africa maybe because ostensibly global powers are looking at Somalia’s rich natural resources. East African Community on the other hand is too focused on trade and security issues but is poor in disaster management, which may explain the disjointed manner of dealing with Covid-19.

It is said that the best way to overcome these hiccups is to expand interests beyond domestic and regional ones and view the international system as a whole by seeking policies that would benefit the region because the strengthening of a common identity is the only way the African dream of integration and prosperity can be achieved.

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