NAIROBI, Kenya – Visiting Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi on Tuesday met Kenya’s influential opposition leader Raila Odinga hours after holding talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi, in a meeting which has triggered anxiety across the region.
Along with his delegation, Bihi, who was first elected in 2017, met Mr. Odinga, the current African Union Infrastructural Development envoy, a critic cum ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The meeting took place early morning in Nairobi’s Upper Hill where Odinga has offices.
Present in the meeting was National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, a close ally of Odinga who was also at State House on Monday. Junet, who is the MP for Suna East, was part of Kenya’s delegation to Somaliland in August that is seen as a pre-arrangement for Bihi’s historical trip to Nairobi.
On Twitter, Bihi termed Odinga as a “great friend of Somaliland” adding that he discussed with him various issues among them security and development in the Horn of Africa.
“It was my pleasure to have a meeting with our great friend, H.E Raila Odinga in Nairobi, the former Prime Minister of Kenya and African Union High Representative For Infrastructure Development,” he said. “Discussed various topics on the security and development of the region.”
At State House, Bihi and his delegation engaged President Uhuru Kenyatta on bilateral ties with Kenya, where the breakaway region claimed it ended a union with Somalia in 1991 one year after the ouster of the military regime led by Siad Barre.
“We discussed a number of subjects of mutual interest with the President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, today at the State House in Nairobi. We are grateful to H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for their warm welcome during this Official Visit,” Bihi noted.
Both sides on Monday said they had agreed on a number of issues and would continue discussions Tuesday on business and security cooperation. It remains unclear if Uhuru will take part in Tuesday’s talks given that he’s scheduled to proceed for annual leave that will last for one month.
Mid this year, Garowe Online has exclusively reported about plans in Kenya’s cabinet to recognize Somaliland. It’s not clear if the matter featured in the two sides deliberations but Garowe Online understands that Mr. Odinga, a renowned Pan-Africanist, is the engine behind the move, which could be buoyed by Kenya’s membership in the United Nations Security Council.
Interestingly, Bihi’s trip has been followed by Somalia’s unprecedented decision to cut diplomatic ties with Kenya, a move that has been associated with Nairobi’s alleged interference with Somalia’s internal politics and of course, the decision to host Somaliland leadership.
Osman Abukar Dubbe, Somalia’s Information Minister, announced Mogadishu’s decision at 1:40 am local time on Tuesday, raising questions about the intentions of the move. Kenya is yet to respond but her diplomats in Somalia have seven days to leave. Somalia still insists that Somaliland is part of her territory.
Last week, Kenya denied claims that it was inciting Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe to renege on September pre-election deal. The country is now on the brink of collapsing following pressure from the opposition which accuses Villa Somalia of planning to rig in President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo by installing a compromised Electoral Committee.
There have been calls to unite Somaliland and Somalia but the talks which were engineered by Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Djibouti President Omar Guelleh have since collapsed. Somaliland, which is in a charm diplomatic offensive mission, is pushing for international recognition.
With Somaliland now courting Kenya against the wish of Mogadishu, the fight against Al-Shabaab and trade within the Horn of Africa could plunge into limbo, analysts say. Kenya has close to 3,500 troops in Somalia but their future remains uncertain based on the recent setbacks, and with Nairobi now looking for new allies to accomplish stability in the region.