Neither Somalia nor Kenya can afford the dispute turning into a protracted crisis: The two East African nations share a long land border and have strong socioeconomic ties.
Indeed, Somalia is currently home to tens of thousands of Kenyan workers who play an important role in the country’s corporate, aid, service and hospitality sectors. Until early December, Somalia had a visa-on-arrival arrangement with Kenya, which allowed Kenyan nationals to do business in the country with relative ease.
Kenya, on the other hand, hosts hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and is home to a large population of ethnic Somalis. It has also invested heavily in Somalia’s post-conflict reconstruction and hosted several conferences that played an important role in the success of peace-building efforts in Somalia. The Somali diaspora also has significant investments in Kenya due to the relatively favourable working and market conditions in the country.
Moreover, Kenya is one of the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the two nations are currently fighting against a shared enemy that is threatening their safety and stability: Al-Shabab.
The multiple roots of the Kenya-Somalia crisis
While the Somali authorities have not yet disclosed the specific reasons behind their decision to cut diplomatic ties with Kenya, there are several well-known tension points in the two countries’ relations that likely paved the way for the move.