Tension continues to build up between Kenya and Somalia as the maritime boundary verdict approaches.
Kenya has threatened to use force if Somalia citizens continue to obstruct or destroy a fence it is building along the border , as written in the diplomatic letter sent to Somalia.
“Any continued obstruction or destruction of the fence shall be responded to forcefully,” stated the letter signed by Kenya’s foreign ministry and delivered by Kenya’s mission in Mogadishu to Somalia’s ministry of foreign affairs on May 25.
Somalia has, however, denied that it is frustrating Kenya’s efforts to secure its border.
“The government of Somalia categorically rejects the allegation that it is in any way involved in the alleged conduct described in the aforementioned Note Verbale,” said Somalia in response to Kenya’s letter.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Netherlands, Hague will in September rule on whether the disputed area belongs to Somalia or Kenya.
Kenya has been trying to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case and allow an out-of-court settlement, which could include shared development of the oil and gas resources as it has happened elsewhere on the continent.
Efforts to get Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to mediate have failed.
In the current tiff, analysts are unanimous that Kenya and Somalia are too intrinsically connected economically, politically and culturally to afford an escalation.
Dr Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, an analyst of Somali affairs, blames the tension on foreign actors who have interests in Somalia.
But he warns that should the antagonism continue, it could result in economic losses for Kenya, given that Somalia is a big market for Kenya’s manufactured goods, miraa (khat) and aviation services, with all flights flying to Somalia registered in Kenya.
Kenyans comprise the biggest foreign labour force in Somalia and Somalis are major investors in Kenya. Eastleigh, a suburb in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, is dominated by Somali traders.
An escalation of hostilities could hurt Kenya’s economy amid claims that more than $2 billion enters the country from Somalia, propping up the shilling.
But the biggest concern, though, is that the war against Al Shabaab would suffer to the detriment of both countries, especially if Somalia were to stop co-operating with Nairobi in sharing security intelligence.