Last Friday’s Somaliland’s Investment Conference in Nairobi may have proceeded unnoticed by many. However, unknown to most Kenyans, the event also served a major political purpose for Somaliland, including rekindling ties with Opposition leader Raila Odinga. According to initial arrangements, the former Prime Minister was supposed to attend the event as chief guest – but opted out at the eleventh hour.
Nonetheless, Mr Odinga, who is African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, is understood to have met the Somaliland delegation in private ahead of the event. Somaliland, which has claimed autonomy from the main Somalia government, is on a mission to initiate relationships with regional states as it pushes for recognition at the African Union and the United Nations.
And Mr Odinga, who has consistently led the push for Kenya to recognise Somaliland as an independent state, is regarded as a valuable friend and partner in these efforts. Mr Odinga’s current posting to the AU has particularly excited Somaliland. His appointment in October was widely hailed by Somaliland government officials, with some pundits in the Hargeisa capital suggesting President Muse Bihi’s administration could now comfortably push through its agenda with the help of a formidable ally.
But the AU envoy is not the only Kenyan ally the Hargeisa government counts on. There is also Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, who has occasionally pushed Somaliland’s case as well. Munya, who momentarily lobbied for the recognition of Hargeisa by the international community while he served as chairman of the Council of Governors, was also listed among key guests of last Friday’s event.
For their previous positive gesture, it appears Odinga and Munya are targets of Somaliland’s wider and well-mapped out strategic approach for political autonomy. Perhaps well aware of the sensitivity of the matter, both leaders kept off from the Somaliland event. According to Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba, Kenya is yet to formally receive any request for the referred recognition, and that if it came through “it would be subjected to thespirit of the AU resolution that upholds respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states”.