Kenya-Somalia back and forth: Jubbaland, Kenya’s only remaining leverage over Somalia

There was a long period of time when Kenya was the very oxygen that sustains Somalia. Its only source of lifeline, from being its gateway to the rest of the world through international travels; its only access to humanitarian and international aid; its only channel of remittances; its only mass residence for its people outside the refugee camps; its only home for its nascent transitional governments; Somalia’s only business hub in the region, internationally second only to Dubai.

Well reality has been changing this one-sided relationship over time. They say change is the only constant. Jubbaland could now be Kenya’s only remaining leverage over Somalia. Not that the ground about Somalia had suddenly shifted from Kenya. It’s that Kenya’s government functionaries had refused to shift with evolving on the ground realities.

Post-2011 Somalia has seen access improvement for Somalia. The more Somalia’s access improved, the more Somalia opened up, the more Kenya’s leverage over Somalia was chipping off.

From Somalia’s near-total dependence on Kenya 10 years ago, the relations have coming to one of the “Somalia and Kenya need each other.”

However, natural changes occurring in Somalia have slowly been balancing out that need more in Somalia’s favor. To the point now its Kenya that needs Somalia more than Somalia needs it.

The only aspect that’s still working strongly working for Kenya is its superior supply of human resource capital to Somalia. This is a factor that is sustained more by the trust and goodwill that exists between the peoples of the two countries than the quality and availability aspect of it.

With all the changes that have been happening, there is nothing that can substitute Somalis natural affinity to Kenya and for Kenyans.

If things don’t work, the blame squarely lies with the Kenyan political leadership. For their abysmal failure to being repulsive enough to alienate Somalia and Somalis. For their working hard to loss Somalia and Somalis.

For post-Moi administrations ditching his soft power diplomacy for hard power. Because Kenyan political, bureaucratic and security leadership is one clueless lot about Somalia and Somalis.

The trouble with hard-nosed pressure tactics as instruments of foreign policy is that its bound to blowback in an unlikely way. Such undiplomatic deportments could push its recipients into a situation of necessity to explore alternatives for survival.

The day a shopkeeper would lose a loyal customer could be that day s/he rans out of stock for a certain stable that allows the customer to find it from another shop at less price. Same for suiters, who must be careful to not push their suiters into the unknown which could turn out to be a better deal for the pushed never to look back again.

Does anyone know, for example, to what national interest end were Kenya’s dumb actions supposed to serve, back in early 2019, when in its [in]sane mind it decided to get at Farmaajo administration with its raft of actions that collectively punished Somalis?

What with mandatory reroute of all Nairobi-bound flights through Wajir; unnecessary harassment of Somali travelers; appearing to use the refugee camps as a bargaining chip; visa restrictions on service and diplomatic passports and public humiliation of Somali diplomats at Kenya’s international port of entries; release of insensitive public statements and speaking rounds by its officials that came across as injuring, insulting and public humiliation to collective Somali pride.

As a show of maturity FGS exercised restraint under all this provocations with much praise from within Somalia and beyond.

Only for Somalia to unexpectedly, but with better timing, to go for full-blown severance of diplomatic relations with Kenya when everyone thought things were beginning to get rosier for the two administrations.

As fate would have it, it was Kenya which was playing nice and mature this round with its measured responses to Somalia’s provocations. Reversed actions and reactions roles as things had been when Kenya was on diplomatic offensive.

Somalia has been a yours for the taking open goldmine for Kenya. A natural treasure that it should do anything in the soft power books to get and keep. Given Kenyan’s level of development relative to the rest of the region coupled with its proximity and the rich heritage that the people of the two countries share, Kenya must work extremely hard to lose Somalia. Temporary Jubbaland shouldn’t be enough for Kenya to lose Somalia.

To those who think Kenya’s tiff with Somalia is about Farmaajo’s stiffness, they should tell themselves, “we are mistaken.” Maybe you should ask Sheikh Sharif and Hassan Sheikh. It all happened before.

Jubbaland is not a real Somalia need. It’s a situation. Situations are, by its very nature, mostly temporary. It’s already being unnaturally balanced out with FGS’s unilateral takeover and control over Gedo from Jubbaland.

About the “Maritime” think, there is no abler leader who has the final say and the guts to say and still survive it than Farmaajo. Because he is viewed as a strong leader who cultivated and commands huge public goodwill. Such decisions are the stuff for strong leaders. Yes, he can. But will he? Is he one to bend to pressure to be forced to take such decisions?

Not the Farmaajo we know. Not in the way we know! Not even when he knows there’s imminent threat that pro-democracy SNSF and allied militia will march into Villa Somalia to ejaculate on his face and leave.

But things could be different if handled differently with respectful, honorable and dignified treatment marinated with all manner of interests. That window of opportunity might have closed. But never say never!

Somalis say its lose-lose for an elder in fights with a youngster. That,  if he beats him, he will be told he beat a youngster. And he gets beaten, he will be told he got beater by someone younger. That’s the predicament that Kenya faces with Somalia. It must find a creative way out of its predicament.

To Kenyatta’s credit, the maritime case may not be decided on during his tenure. With all the ingenious delay tactics he pooled to make sure he saves himself the historical indignity that Kenya lost claim to its maritime territory during the reigns of the founding father. He’ll hang in to betroth the troubles to the maritime territorial dispute to the unlucky next administration.