Kenya, will for the first time, have diplomatic ties with Somaliland should the proposed changes in the ministry of foreign affairs be implemented.
Phillip Githiora Mundia has been assigned to establish the Kenyan mission in Hargeisa, Somaliland, perhaps an indication Nairobi will finally recognise the self-declared semi-autonomous state.
This will likely open up trade ties between the two countries which have been hampered over the years by lack of a Kenyan representation in Somaliland.
The country (Somaliland) is also home to hundreds of Kenyans living and working in Hargeisa and other parts of the Horn of Africa nation.
Kenya will join Ethiopia and Djibouti as the only countries in the Eastern Africa region with diplomatic missions in Somaliland. Somaliland has a mission in Nairobi.
Somaliland is a former British protectorate which merged with Somalia at independence but went separate ways after the emergence of the 1991 civil war. The country remains unrecognized despite numerous efforts to earn sovereignty.
However, several nations globally have over the recent past engaged in trade relations with the country which is strategically placed in the Red Sea.
In a letter to the Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua, Dr Monica Juma proposed Mundia to open up a Kenyan mission in Somaliland capital Hargeisa.
This decision comes just months after the Kenyan foreign affairs CS held talks with the new Somaliland envoy to Kenya Bashe Omar and later with the immediate former Somaliland minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation Dr Saad Ali Shire.
Top on the talks between Juma, Bashe and Shire was the poor economic ties between Kenya and Somaliland due to lack of representation in Hargeisa. This has prompted Dr Juma to assign Mundia to open up a mission there.
The move has excited Somaliland envoy to Kenya Bashe Omar who sees this as the biggest opportunity for the two countries to work together.
“We have a long history with Kenya dating back from colonial days,” said Bashe whose ten month efforts in pushing for the opening of a mission seems to have worked well.
“The move by Kenya to open a mission in Hargeisa will be a massive boost to our economic and social transactions,” he added stating that there is so much Kenya can export to Somaliland.
Last December, Somaliland hosted an investors’ forum in Nairobi which was officially opened by Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Minister Yasin Mohammed Hiir who encouraged Kenyan investors to take advantage of the investment opportunities in his country
“Come and work with us in building the great nation of Somaliland, we have so many opportunities. “We need to expand cross-border trade and investments between the two countries for mutual gain,” Hiir said.
“The large number of Kenyans who are working and living in Somaliland is a proof of our good hospitality, we can increase prosperity for our citizens through enhanced trade,” the minister added.
Among Kenyan businessmen set to benefit are the khat (mirraa) traders who have found it difficult to trade in Somaliland.
Bashe also says the Kenya national air carrier Kenya Airways should take cue and start direct flights between Nairobi and Hargeisa.
This, he says, will help boost medical tourism, encourage students from Somaliland to seek opportunities in Kenyan schools and universities and make it easier and faster to transport goods between the two countries.
Philip Mundia Githiora has been serving as Minister Counsellor at the Kenyan Embassy in Moscow, Russia.
By Odindo Ayieko