What you need to know:
- I can think of at least one good deed that our neighbours have done for us.
- I don’t know of one good thing that Somalia has ever done for us.
This column will get me in no end of trouble, but I’ll write it anyway because there is a big debate going on and we, our children and our children’s children, will live with the consequences.
To be quite honest, I’d not wish the Federal Republic of Somalia as a neighbour on my worst enemy. There is never a quiet moment in that country; life is an endless, angry squabble. And there is no end of violent problems and they all end up washing up on neighbours’ doors. I can think of at least one good deed that our neighbours have done for us.
Tanzania, through its Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Ben Mkapa, helped us to crack the post-election conundrum in 2008 and save our country. Ethiopia, through our defence pact, protected us when we couldn’t quite defend ourselves during the Cold War. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda makes nice speeches during big days. I don’t know of one good thing that Somalia has ever done for us.
I can think of a thousand bad things that have happened to us since the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre 30 years, including the slaughter of 150 university students in Garissa whose killers, to the best of my knowledge, have not all been brought to justice, but I’ll not go into that.
What offends me a little is that, in Somalia, Kenya is a cliché, a bogeyman, a caricature. When Somali leaders want to unite their nation, they just recite what evil, bad people Kenyans are and the people unite behind them against the despicable neighbour.
And now, the decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) giving Somalia some of the territory it had claimed from Kenya, and Nairobi’s decision not to honour that judgment, gives Somali demagogues a grievance around which to mobilise the people against us for politics.
The ICJ ruling is a whole new Pandora’s box, full of horrors for our future. My instinct is to always obey the court; you can question the fairness of the process, you can question the judgment, but compliance is never available for discussion. We never allow people to defend themselves on our pages in court matters; we always send them to present their case in court. This is different, however, because it is a court without appeal or recourse and one which, according to the Government of Kenya, had procedural unfairness from which it got no relief.
Justice Abdulqawi Yusuf, a Somali citizen, sits on the ICJ bench (he’s actually the court’s equivalent of a DCJ, according to some reporting) and had sometimes back represented Somalia at a UN conference, where he expressed definite views about how sea boundaries should be drawn. The question is whether, in a case like this and where a judge is a citizen of litigating state and had previously expressed allegiance to a doctrine, litigants will feel that they have been treated fairly.
Another sticking point for Kenya is the question of compulsory jurisdiction. Countries can choose whether the court can hear their cases or whether they choose alternative methods of resolving the dispute, such as through mediation and other bilateral mechanisms. I suspect that Kenya mishandled this part of business, but that is water under the bridge.
Kenya alleges that Somalia worked with powerful commercial parties, possibly European, in concocting this case, with the intention exploiting minerals, possibly oil or natural gas, from the territory that Somalia is claiming from Kenya. There are always mercenaries and very unsavoury characters involved in African resource conflicts. Powerful nations overthrow African governments and impose puppets to gain access to natural resources.
Ordinary husbands are terrified of their wives. So when they are suspected of wrongdoing, instinctively they don’t own up, they deny and deny. But there is a category of horrible men who are not scared of their wives, have no respect for them at all and proceed on the basis that they will behave as they wish and their wives can do what they want.
So if the wife confronts this class of husband and says, “You were seen with that terrible Sarah at the club last Saturday, when you claimed to have gone to buy cows in Mandera. What were you doing with her?” this unspeakable husband will answer: “We drunk and partied until 4am, then we went to her house and I stayed there for three days.”
This is the nuclear option, a devastating and unfair move which allows the other party no comeback.
So Somalia, playing for maximum advantage, rejected the mediation mechanisms available at the African Union and went to court and won the judgment it wanted. Kenya has protested and rejected the judgment as unfair and full of illegalities. It has also signalled that it will not hand over any territory to Somalia, the court ruling notwithstanding.
Kenya has played the rogue husband card. Now the ball is in Somalia’s court.