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Kenya Blundered In Closing Somali Border
BY JOHN CHERUIYOT
Nairobi, Mar 14, 2007 – The Muslim community in Mombassa recently demonstrated against the government on what they perceive as the marginalization of their community .They blamed the government for sending Muslims Kenyans to Somalia in the name of terrorists.
The closing of the Kenya-Somalia border to stop the fleeing refugees from entering into Kenya was unfortunate. Rafael Tuju Kenya ’s Foreign Affairs Minister did not handle the issue prudently.
Indeed if current foreign diplomacy whereby our borders are closed deliberately to keep off refugees fleeing from civil wars; if this policy was used in the past many Sudanese, many Ugandans, many Rwandese, Congolese and Ethiopians would have starved to death or been vulnerable to warring factions in their respective nations. Today Sudanese hold Kenya and Kenyans in high esteem. At their moment of need we gave them refuge. Kenya gave refuge to senior refugees like Museveni and the late John Garang and senior members of SPLA. .
The forty-four years of so-called political stability are not reflected economically. Kenyans today are globe-trekking looking for greener pastures. Thousands have left this country in search of economic prosperity.
The Sudanese propelled Logichogio to international prominence. This tiny city in the jungles of Turkana district would not have been what it is today if the Moi government had shut out the Sudanese refugees from entering the country. Kenya in a big way has benefited from the generous support it gave to its neighbors. The Somali refugees transformed Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb into Dubai of Kenya. The billions of Kenya shillings that were used to turn Eastleigh into what it is today would not have been possible if the Moi regime had shut our Somali brothers from investing in this nation. Indeed it should be noted that the Somalis are dare devil investors.
The boundaries separating our neighboring nations were not our creation. It was the product of the Berlin conference of 1884.It split Africa into the current conglomeration of nations in the process putting asunder communities. It split the Masai into two. It split the Oromo into two. The same is true for the Luo, the Luhya, the Kalenjin and the Kuria. They were split between nations. Hence in the 21centruy African communities should really re-address the issue of the Berlin conference with a view to redrawing African boundaries from the African perspective.
Somalia has been at war for decades without any nation bothering to help them out. Somalia is a unique country in Africa. It was split during the Berlin conference into two. Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland. When the Italians were defeated during World War II Italian Somaliland came under the UN trusteeship. On July 1, 1960 both British and Italian Somaliland merged to create the Republic of Somalia . Imagine if Kenya was split into two.
Anarchy became the order of the day. Americans sent 28,000 soldiers through Operation Restore Hope in 1992. They failed miserably. The armed groups killed American soldiers and shot UN helicopters. And that was the end of any international effort to restore order in Somalia. Since the ousting of Dictator Siyad Barre in 1990 Somalia has been hell on earth. Somalia is a strategic nation in the Horn of Africa. Militarily it is positioned well. Its natural resources place it in a strategic economic position. It is a potential oil producer. It has uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum and bauxite. It is a home for bananas, mangoes, sugarcane, maize and sorghum. It is a land of cattle, sheep and goats.
Her trading partners in 1994 included Saudi Arabia 57%, Kenya 24%, Djibouti 18%, Yemen 14%, Italy and Pakistan 6%. Somalia is a key neighbor economically, politically and religiously. Ethnically Somalia is 85% Somali and the rest Bantu with 30,000 Arabs.
Kenya must be ready to invest in the people of Somalia more importantly because the future of our region hinges on economic and political stability of the region. Furthermore the need for a federation of the Eastern Africa to include Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea is possible futuristic scenario.
Somalia is a key trading partner with Kenya hence the closing of the border particularly to shut out refugees was a unwise.
The Kibaki government should not have been too harsh to the Somali refugees. They were fleeing for dear life. They were not coming empty handed. They were coming with their talents and resources.
Kenyan leadership should see a bigger picture while it relates with its neighbors. Countries now ravaged by instability are Kenya ’s future economic and political players. Somalia is key to Kenya ’s economic development. And so are Sudan, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, DRC and even Egypt. We should forever offer help to the needy citizenry of our region. Kenya should become the Mecca of African region.
We should attract the best of the region into our economy and thus help Kenya become the tiger of Africa . Today they are refugees tomorrow investors!
Source: Kenya Times