Kenya’s Border Posts with Somalia to Remain Closed Due to Security Concerns, Citing African Union Mission Drawdown

The reopening of border posts between Kenya and Somalia has been put on hold, as the Kenyan government prioritizes national security amidst the winding down of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Raymond Omollo, the Interior Principal Secretary, revealed in an interview with Nation.Africa that the decision was driven by the imperative to secure the country’s entry and exit points.

This announcement comes nine months after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Somali counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali expressed their intention to reopen the borders following high-level consultations in Nairobi.

The move aimed to end a 12-year blockade that began in 2011.

The Kenya-Somalia border stretches approximately 800 kilometers, equivalent to the distance from Mombasa to Busia. Omollo admitted that securing this vast and challenging route has proven to be extremely difficult.

Despite the closure of land border posts, there is still limited movement between Kenya and Somalia, particularly by air, with daily flights operating on the Nairobi-Mogadishu route.

Recognizing the significance of trade and commerce between the two countries, Dr. Omollo emphasized the need to reopen the closed border points. He believes that this step will boost trade volume, address illicit trade issues, and enhance cooperation in tackling security concerns at the porous border regions.

However, the impending withdrawal of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis) troops poses additional security challenges that Kenya is closely monitoring. Dr. Omollo stated that the government will assess the situation after several months to a year, aiming to make the border points fully operational once the drawdown process is complete.

The geographical terrain along the Kenya-Somalia border presents further obstacles to border control efforts. The rugged and arid nature of the area requires substantial investments to effectively manage movement in and out of Kenya.

In an effort to enhance border management, Kenya is hosting the National Border Management Conference at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. The conference, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, will bring together stakeholders to discuss strategies for improving efficiency in the sector. Dr. Omollo, who chairs the Border Control Coordination Operations Committee, highlighted the importance of an inter-agency approach and coordination in border management. The summit will also address the challenges faced in this area and evaluate operations at border posts over the past decade.

Kenya shares borders with five countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania. To facilitate trade and secure border points, the government is adopting technological advancements, such as the use of drones and surveillance cameras. This shift in tactics aims to optimize security measures and address the limitations of deploying physical border guards in every location.

Addressing the issue of document forgery at border points, the Kenyan government has implemented a new visa-free regime, significantly reducing incidents of fake documents and identification. The government has also strengthened pre-screening processes and information sharing with international agencies like Interpol.

Illegal movement and trafficking remain persistent challenges at the borders, resulting in revenue loss for the country. To combat these issues, the government is engaging with communities through Peace Committees, which consist of national government administrators and village elders. These committees provide a platform for dialogue, enabling the government to identify challenges, address security concerns, and tackle illicit trade activities.

The government is also collaborating with international partners, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as engaging in bilateral discussions with the UK and US governments to support community engagement programs in border counties.

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