In a significant development for Somalia and Kenya, the long-awaited reopening of the border between the two nations has been officially announced. The decision, which comes after extensive consultations between high-level officials, signifies a major milestone in regional cooperation. The reopening of border points in Mandera, Lamu, and Garissa marks the end of a 12-year closure that began during Kenya’s Operation Linda Nchi, aimed at combatting the influx of Al-Shabaab militants.
Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary, Prof Kithure Kindiki, and his Somali counterpart, Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh, jointly declared the reopening, reflecting a shared commitment to strengthening bilateral ties and promoting stability in the region. The reopening process will occur in phases, with the border at Bula Hawa in Mandera set to be the first to open within 30 days. Subsequently, the border at Liboi (Mandera) will reopen in 60 days, followed by Ras Kamboni (Lamu) in 90 days. Moreover, there are discussions underway regarding the potential addition of a fourth border post in Wajir County.
Recognizing the close ties between border communities in both countries, CS Kindiki emphasized the need to enhance cross-border communication and collaboration. He reiterated the resolve of Kenya and Somalia to work together in ensuring the stability and progress of the two neighboring nations. CS Kindiki stated, “Our two countries are in agreement on the modalities. Through internal consultations, we will develop strategies to consolidate the gains made through our partnership.”
In a joint statement, the interior ministers highlighted the importance of shared cross-border intelligence and the strengthening of law enforcement capacity to effectively manage the borders. Additionally, discussions centered around the establishment of modern and secure border infrastructure, facilitating trade, mobility, and the movement of people between Kenya and Somalia.
The reopening of the Kenya-Somalia border is part of the ambitious “Deris Wanaag” initiative, meaning “Good Neighbourliness” in Somali. Funded by the United Kingdom, this initiative aims to address longstanding issues of insecurity and instability in the Horn of Africa region caused by Al-Shabaab. With a budget of over Ksh1.7 billion ($12 million) and a three-year timeline, the project seeks to enhance regional security and counter extremist ideologies, ultimately fostering an environment of peace and prosperity.
While tensions and disputes have marred relations between Kenya and Somalia in the past, both nations have demonstrated a renewed commitment to fostering diplomatic ties and resolving conflicts. The reopening of the border is a significant step towards enhancing people-to-people interactions, encouraging trade and economic integration, and promoting cultural exchange between the two countries.
Although the unresolved maritime border dispute and accusations of interference have posed challenges in the past, recent efforts to reactivate diplomatic channels reflect a shared desire to overcome differences and prioritize mutual interests.
The reopening of the Kenya-Somalia border stands as a testament to the shared determination of both nations to build a future of peace, security, and prosperity in the region.