- Normal business was disrupted in Mandera town for the better part of Monday as two rival Somalia military forces fought on the Somali side.
Kenya on Monday wrote to the African Union (AU), raising security concerns after Somalia’s federal and regional forces renewed fighting at Bula Hawa in Gedo near Mandera County.
Nairobi said the fighting is likely to create a security crisis for Kenya especially since the two countries no longer have diplomatic relations.
“Kenya’s primary concern is that the renewed fighting engenders large scale displacement of civilians inside Somalia and increasingly generates large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers to Kenya, therefore aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia and in the refugee camps in Kenya,” said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Kenya is concerned that if the fighting continues unabated, the situation could further destabilise the region, complicate the security situation and reverse gains made in the fight against terrorism.”
Following the fighting, government offices and business premises in Mandera town remained closed for the better part of the day.
Women and children were seen running towards the Kenya-Ethiopia border and later crossing into Suftu for safety.
“I cannot wait to die. I am going to Ethiopia with my children until the situation normalises,” said Ms Halima Alio.
Kenya’s letter came after normal business was disrupted in Mandera town for the better part of Monday as two rival Somalia military forces fought on the Somali side.
The two forces began their battle at about 1am, with the fight going on throughout the day.
Soldiers of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) have been camping at Bula Hawa town since last March after uprooting Jubbaland forces loyal to Abdirashid Hassan Abdinur alias Abdirashid Janan, the Jubbaland minister for security who is wanted by Mogadishu.
After being overpowered in March, Mr Janan and his army crossed into Kenya, finding a hiding place in Mandera town.
Since then, he has been planning to recapture Bula Hawa, a town neighbouring Mandera.
The wanted minister, now declared a fugitive, has been reinforcing his team and getting more weaponry from Jubbaland capital Kismayu.
On Monday morning, Somalia’s Information Minister Abukar Dubbe claimed Mogadishu had blocked illegal importation of weapons by some “local and foreign entities”.
The Somali version of his statement, however, accused Kenya of siding with Janan’s rebels.
“Kenyan troops and rebels attacked Bula Hawa (Beled Hawo) in the middle of the night as they crossed the border to seize the key town, which is damaging to the sovereignty of our country. Nearly 100 prisoners (of war) have been captured in the fighting, and they have been defeated.”
Somalia made similar claims two weeks ago to a delegation nominated by Djibouti President Ismael Guelleh to help iron out a tiff between Kenya and Somalia.
However, Somali authorities did not take the delegation to Gedo, the alleged location of militia camps said to be supported by Kenya.
Instead, Kenya rejected the claims and showed the delegation satellite images of Somalia’s military deployment closer to the border with Kenya – as close as 20 metres.
Nairobi told the delegation that Somalia’s forces were provoking it but argued the tiff between Jubbaland and the Somali National Forces is a Somalia issue.
During the separate sessions, it also emerged that Somalia’s forces had quietly compensated a family in Mandera, whose member was shot by a stray bullet following an earlier clash.
In November 2020, Mogadishu accused Nairobi of hosting, training and arming a militia group with the aim of disrupting business back home.
Nairobi chose not to respond to the allegations as Mogadishu sent more military forces and set up camps along the common border.