Kenya-Somalia Border to Remain Closed

Further Delay

Kenya’s Interior Principal Secretary, Raymond Omollo, has announced that the Kenyan border with Somalia is to remain closed, citing further security challenges that have plagued the border for many years.

The border was initially closed in 2011, and has remained as such as Somalia struggles with insurgencies, primarily from the Al-Shabaab militant group. Kenya closed the border after Al-Shabaab militants had launched several attacks across and around the border.

In 2023, Somalian and Kenyan authorities announced their intention to finally re-open the approximately 800km long border. However, there has been much difficulty in securing the border, particularly as Somalia’s insurgency problems persist, and the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, ATMIS, slowly winds down and prepares for its withdrawal from the country.

“Somalia is unique because it has faced a lot of challenges especially terrorism. But when you look at the long border, it makes it very daunting. We had plans and we still have plans to open several border points with Somalia, we thought not now but we will do so even as we consider the challenge of insecurity that this move brings” -Secretary Omollo

Secretary Omollo established no specific timeline for the opening of the border, only stating that “maybe after a few months to almost a year we will be able to make these border points (between Kenya and Somalia) fully functional,” with the timeline largely being dependent upon any security issues that may arise from the ATMIS’ withdrawal.

A photo of ATMIS Head Souef Mohamed El-Amine (left) during a troop withdrawal ceremony with Somalia’s National Security Adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali (centre holding the folder, photo from ATMIS_Somalia on Twitter).

The terrain between the Kenyan and Somalian border is also particularly rough, posing unique challenges for securing the entirety of the border. Kenya has stated that, through the Kenya Revenue Authority, that they will soon be deploying drones in order to assist with border surveillance. They stated that it is not “cost effective” to attempt to survey the entire border through manpower, as well as that “it is impossible to have boots in every room,” and thus they are seeking technologies to assist in operations.

Missing Bonuses of the EAC

Last month, Somalia officially became the eighth member of the East African Community (EAC), an East African bloc that presently operates largely as an economic bloc. While Somalia should be economically integrating with the rest of the bloc, the trade benefits that their membership brings remain largely locked with the border.

There is still a growing trade relationship between Somalia and the other seven members (Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Tanzania), particularly with Kenya (flights between Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, and Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, occur daily), there is a significant amount of missed potential.

Economic integration is a key part of membership in the EAC, representing yet more inhibitors to the EAC’s plan to eventually unify into one nation, as the East African Federation. While there are a number of significant barriers that remain in the way of this plan, Somalia’s instability is one of them.

However, Somalia’s admittance to the EAC, an 11 year long dream of theirs, does show marginal progress within Somalia both in the strength of its political institutions, as well as progress it is making in its fight against insurgency.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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