Kenya is considering a tactical withdrawal of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) troops from areas already liberated in Somalia following escalating oil dispute along Indian Ocean marine border, reports the Nation.
In March, there were reports that KDF troops had already been withdrawn from several areas including notorious Gedo region, but the government remained tight lipped over the matter.
“Our people spotted the troops heading towards the Somali border. They destroyed their military base before leaving,” a senior politician from Gedo, who requested not to be named for fear of reprisals by both KDF and Somali security forces, told the Nation.
KDF has played integral role in bringing stability in several regions across Somalia. In 2012, the troops managed to liberate Kismayu town, a hotbed of Al-Shabaab militants. The looming withdrawal will be a huge set back for Mogadishu.
Besides KDF withdrawal, Kenya has also imposed strict travelling restrictions, including withdrawal of privileges for Somalia government officials. It is also considering working with stable regional governments, as a move to pile pressure on Mogadishu to surrender the oil deposits.
On Tuesday, three members of the Somali delegation who had travelled to Nairobi for the launch of a European Union-sponsored cross-border conflict management programme were sent back to Mogadishu after Immigration authorities said they had no valid visas.
The three — junior minister for water and energy Osman Liban and lawmakers Ilyas Ali Hassan and Zamzam Dahir — were refused entry at the Nairobi airport for lacking visas despite holding diplomatic passports.
While the officers were turned away, Foreign Affairs minister Monica Juma, who is at the centre of the row, insisted that the officers did not have Visas. Initially, government officials from Somalia were allowed to travel on Diplomatic passports.
“All of us travel with visas so, if you do not have it it can be very difficult,” she said after meeting with EU Foreign Policy boss Federica Mogherini.
On Monday, Somalia Lower House passed Petroleum Law, which will allow the country to give contracts to exploration companies. The move may have irked Kenya since the disputed maritime border section is not yet resolved.
“The Petroleum law will enable the long-term development of the country and provide the resource to establish infrastructure crucial for long-term prosperity,” said Somalia’s ministry of petroleum and mineral resources in a statement.
“With the passage of the Petroleum Law, it is anticipated that Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) will subsequently be signed, which will enable exploration activity to then commence and hopefully lead to discoveries.”
Also among the measure will be; forcing Al aircrafts from Somalia to land in Wajir airstrip for security check ups. The rule was out in force since last week. The officials who were turned back at JKIA on Monday did not receive any notification from Nairobi.
“The Kenyan authorities at the airport informed these guys that such [a] plan has changed, and now everyone has to obtain a visa from Kenya’s Mission in Mogadishu,” a senior Somali official in the delegation who travelled on a foreign passport told the Nation on Monday night.
In September this year, the two countries will return to the International Court of Justice, where they will argue the case. There were reports in February that Somalia had auctioned the oil fields to British companies.