Matiang'i meets Ethiopia premier over Somalia security

Wednesday March 18 2020
matiang'i

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s special envoy Fred Matiang’i Wednesday presented an invitation to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa as part of efforts to address the Somalia security problem.

Dr Matiang’i, whose day job is Interior minister, was earlier this week drafted to deliver a special invitation to Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo, and possibly help cool off tensions that arose the previous week.

Wednesday, Dr Matiang’i said his trip to Addis Ababa was to follow up on the security issue, which last week saw Somali National Army and Jubbaland state soldiers exchange gunfire on Kenyan soil in Mandera County.

One person was killed and four others were injured in the fight that lasted four days.

“We’ve held substantive talks with Dr Abiy on Kenya’s desire for more avenues of collaboration to tackle issues on the Somalia border with a view to enhancing regional stability,” Dr Matiang’i tweeted.

Sources said the CS delivered the same information to Addis Ababa, suggesting there could be some form of summit in the works between the leaders of the three countries.

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On Wednesday evening, Somalia’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad met his Kenyan counterpart Raychelle Omamo for “bilateral talks” closely linked to the security issue.

Kenya and Ethiopia have troops in the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Somalia has lately tended to favour Ethiopia while castigating Kenya as an adversary, ostensibly because Nairobi supports Jubbaland President Ahmed Madobe, whom Mr Farmaajo refuses to recognise.

EASE TENSIONS

Last week, it was Dr Abiy who brokered deal in which Mr Kenyatta and Mr Farmaajo agreed to speak by phone.

It eased tensions and showed the influence Dr Abiy has over the Somali leader.

Unlike Mr Farmaajo, who readily accepted Mr Kenyatta’s invitation to Nairobi, a source said Dr Abiy did not give such commitment.

Officially, Ethiopia and Kenya say they have cordial relations based on “mutual respect.” Their relations are also labelled as ‘strategic’ meaning they can always work on common programmes for regional stability.

Premier Abiy’s policy on Somalia, however, departed from his predecessors’ who worked with Somalia’s federal states more.

In 2018, Abiy signed an MoU with Farmaajo to develop four sea ports, something that could happen only under a stronger federal government.

Last week, President Kenyatta, in a message delivered by Dr Matiang’i said he had “deep respect for Somalia.” 

Farmaajo who accepted the invitation said Kenya and Somalia “share the importance of achieving joint security,” and addressing economic and political challenges, indicating a climb-down from public accusations.