Revealed: Why 11 North Eastern MPs traveled secretly to Somalia

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 00:00 | By
LEFT: Wajir East MP Rashid Amin (left), Mandera East’s Omar Maalim (centre) and Kenya Airport Police Unit Commandant Titus Karuri at JKIA yesterday, after the lawmakers arrived from Mogadishu. RIGHT: Mandera South MP Adan Haji at JKIA moments after arriving from Modagishu, yesterday. Photo/PD/KENNA CLAUDE

By Geoffrey Mosoku

The arrest yesterday of 11 Members of Parliament from Wajir and Mandera counties, who sneaked to Somalia for a secret meeting with the neighbouring country’s top officials, is not only a puzzle to the security agencies, but could further strain the fragile relations between the two States.

According to police, the legislators were picked soon after they arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 3pm and grilled for several hours before being released last evening.   

A senior security official last night told the People Daily that the MPs, who are set to be summoned later for further grilling, are likely to face treason charges. 

Those picked were Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Ibrahim Abdi (Lafey), Rashid Kassim (Wajir East), Mohamed Hire (Lagdera), Omar Maalim (Mandera East), Bashir Abdullahi (Mandera North), Adan Haji (Mandera West),  Kullow Maalim (Banisa), Adan Ali Sheikh (Mandera South), Mohamed Dahir (Daadab) and Ahmed Bashane (Tarbaj).

The 11 were cleared for departure to Mogadishu aboard Salaamair Air Express Flight WU-751 on Saturday at around 11am and upon landing in the Somali capital, they were driven to Villa Somali (State House) where they met President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo for more than four hours.

“How can MPs travel to a neighbouring  country without clearance and then meet the President without the knowledge of the government?

We have held discussions with them to have a feeling of what they discussed while out there.

The process must be above board and go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Mureithi Kangi,  secretary in the Ministry of Interior.

Sources at Vigilance House, Police headquarters, said the leaders were not representing the Government of Kenya nor were they emissaries of the Foreign Affairs ministry.

In Mogadishu, they are said to have met the Somali National Intelligence Agency (NISA) officials for briefing, who later hosted them to a dinner amid claims Somalia is lobbying them to push Kenya to stop supporting Jubaland leadership led by Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe.

Ironically, all the 11 legislators are members of President Farmajo’s Marehan clan, which has always been at war with Madobe’s Ogaden clan.

The Somali government has also been pushing for the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Kisimayu in Jubaland where it claims the latter has imposed Madobe on the throne.

But Kasim, one of those held, defended their trip to Somalia, claiming they had only engaged the authoritaties in Somali over insecurity in Wajir and Mandera in response to a challenge by President Uhuru Kenyatta that they should take the initiative to fight al Shabaab.

“The al Shabaab foundation and home is in Somalia and our message was very clear to President Farmajo that Kenya is a friendly country.

We asked him to stop accusing Kenya of all manner of allegations. We were there in the best interest of this country,” he asserted.

 But sources at the Foreign Affairs ministry intimated that the Somali government could be intending to use the politicians, who are sympathetic to Somalia clan-based politics to sponsor and orchestrate an Northern Frontier District (NFD) movement to push for a cessation from Kenya discourse.

Kenya Airports Police Unit Commandant Titus Karuri said the 11 MPs had violated Kenyan law by travelling outside the country without State clearance.

“We have been monitoring them since their departure on Saturday. We would like to know their mission in Somalia and whether they were up to some mischief like espionage on Kenya or they were plotting to cause some instability in the country,” he said.

Last evening, a senior Foreign Affairs ministry official indicated that the MPs may face treason charges as it emerged that they met Somalia President and a senior intelligence official during their trip to Mogadishu. 

“It’s unacceptable, an affront to the Constitution and treasonable if you go to negotiate with a foreign country on matters of national security,” said the officer.

He added; “We were distressed that the leaders were in a foreign capital cavorting with the leader of a foreign nation and thereafter being briefed by the equivalent of Director General of their intelligence service.”

Seek sanctions

There were reports that the MPs who were flown from Nairobi on Saturday morning were chauffeured straight from the airport to Villa Somalia where they held a meeting with President Farmajo. They later held a session with the Somalia intelligence chiefs.

According to protocol, once the MPs obtain clearance from the Speaker, the Foreign Affairs ministry ought to have sent a note verbale to Mogadishu informing their counterparts of the intended arrival of a delegation. This was not done and Kenya’s embassy officials in Mogadishu were not aware of the arrival.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi confirmed that the legislators had not sought his clearance to travel as per the law.

“I learned about their travel yesterday (Saturday) but they had not sought clearance from my office,” he said.

“They are required to seek permission of the Speaker first and state reason for the travel and the period of absence and the contact address of where you will be staying while away,” he added.

The arrest came just three days after Somalia accused Kenya of being a ‘destabilising force’ in its internal affairs.

In a strongly worded statement, the country’s envoy to the United Nations told the security  council that Mogadishu intends to formally seek sanctions against Kenya.

Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman said Somalia had exhausted all diplomatic means with Kenya but had failed to find any solution. 

The envoy accused Kenya of interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs and violating the UN Charter by engaging in what he called “anti-peace actions” without elaborating, only saying Nairobi’s actions are a threat to sovereignty, independence and unity of Somalia.

“Kenya continues to be a destabilising force, negating its engagement in Amisom,” he said. Kenya has about 3,500 of the 20,000 troops that are fighting al-Shabaab under the banner of the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Osman, who accused Kenya of violating the UN Charter warned that Somalia will “take all measures to defend its sovereignty and unity”.

Kenya and Somalia are also embroiled in a maritime border dispute as Somalia lays claim to the Indian Ocean sea line. Kenya has vowed not to surrender even “an inch of its territory” even as the dispute is pending at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Somalia has also accused Kenya of harbouring Jubaland security minister Abdirashid Janan Hassan Abdinur, who escaped from a Mogadishu prison.

Janan orchestrated his escape from a Mogadishu prison on January 28, 2020, after almost five months in incarceration following his arrest on August 31, 2019, and made his way to the border town of Mandera. 

Sources at police headquarters indicated that Kenya has been greatly concerned over a move by NISA to amass near the Kenyan border in Mandera ahead of a planned attack on some members of a Somali clan in Jubaland.

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