NAIROBI — Kenyan Presidency Spokesman has said President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to a Kenya Defence Forces’ camp in Somalia was “normal”, despite murmurs of displeasure from Mogadishu.
At a Press conference on Sunday, Kenyan Presidency Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu denied there was a diplomatic spat with Somalia after the President reportedly toured their territory without informing Mogadishu.
“The President visiting his troops is a normal thing to do and ours has done that. It is important for him to show support to troops who are working to secure our country,” he said.
“I am quite sure that if there are by-issues by the other country, then they will be handled through normal diplomatic channels. I am quite sure that we wouldn’t respond to any concerns, if there were any, via press conference,” he said.
On Saturday, President Kenyatta visited Kenyan troops in Dhobley, a town in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya that has also been traditionally used as a distribution station for many relief agencies working in Somalia.
Kenya said the President made the trip to show support for troops who have been in Somalia since October 2011, after which they later merged with other forces under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
“The President wanted to appear in person to show his support for the very important work our men and women in uniform do to secure our country.
“It is often lost to some in our country that the relative security we enjoy is in part due to the commitment, dedication and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice of these men and women,” Mr Esipisu told reporters.
But amid the President’s first ever visit to a military camp abroad, reports emerged that President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ had expressed “displeasure” with the visit because his office wasn’t notified.
A source in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital wouldn’t confirm to the Nation if Somalia had been notified of the impromptu trip, but suggested they would protest to Nairobi for what he said had been broken communication.
“The visit was a surprise, probably a result of miscommunication. Unfortunately, we can’t say more on that because we will engage directly with our brothers in Kenya,” said an official from Mogadishu’s Presidency but who asked to remain anonymous.
Normally, world leaders make ‘surprise’ trips to meet their troops in foreign lands, but the visits are often organised with local authorities in the know.
Somalia’s airspace is still controlled from Nairobi, following the eruption of civil war 25 years ago.
On Thursday, President Farmajo is expected in Nairobi for a three-day state visit which will also culminate into a summit by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad). It would also be his first trip abroad since he was elected in February.
The conference will focus on resettling Somali refugees back home as well as the security situation in the region.
Kenya has insisted on closing Dadaab refugee camp, but has often lacked legal and financial backing to force refugees back.