Kenya, Somalia agree to ease visa restrictions and open three border points in 90 days
NAIROBI—Kenya and Somalia announced on Monday an agreement to reopen their land border at three points by July 1, officially closed since 2011 due to the insurrection of the militant group Al Shabab.
The announcement was made after a meeting in Nairobi between delegations of ministers from the two countries on issues of cooperation in security, trade and movement of people.
“We are looking into the possibility of reopening the border and we have decided that the border between Somalia and Kenya will be reopened in a phased manner over the next 90 days” via three border crossings, Kenya’s interior minister said, Kithure Kindiki, at a joint press conference.
The Mandera-Bulahawa border post “must be opened within the next 30 days”, he detailed, followed by that of Liboi-Harhar “in 60 days from today” , then that of Kiunga-Ras Kamboni on July 1.
Besides these three points located respectively in the Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir and Lamu, “we are also studying the possibility of adding a fourth border crossing” in the county of Wajir, he added.
Last July, the two countries announced their intention to reopen the border, but this never materialized.
700 km long, the border between Kenya and Somalia was officially closed by Nairobi in October 2011 in an attempt to stem attacks by radical Somali Islamists Shebab on Kenyan soil, including kidnappings of tourists and foreign aid workers.
The Kenyan army intervened shortly after in Somalia to fight the Shebab. His forces then joined the African Union force in Somalia (Amisom, now Atmis) in 2012, which chased the Shebab from several of their strongholds.
Since 2011, Kenya has been the target of several deadly attacks claimed by Shebab, in particular against the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi (September 2013, 67 dead), the University of Garissa (April 2015, 148 dead) and the hotel complex Dusit (January 2019, 21 dead).
Many other smaller attacks regularly target police and civilians near the border. The two countries, in theory, allies in the fight against Shebab, have tumultuous relations.
Somalia has regularly accused Kenya of interference, while the latter has accused Mogadishu of looking for a scapegoat for its internal problems. Somalia had severed diplomatic relations with Kenya in December 2020, restored in August 2021.
The two countries have also argued over the course of their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean.
In October, the International Court of Justice, the main judicial body of the UN, agreed with Somalia, granting it a vast area of 100,000 km2 rich in fish and potential hydrocarbons. Kenya officially rejected this decision.