New era of security cooperation as Somalia cabinet approves defence pact with Kenya

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The two countries are also seeking to boost relations through political consultations, trade, health, and education.

Somalia's cabinet approved a defence pact with Kenya that allows the two nations to cooperate in upscaling the fight against Al-Shabaab even after the withdrawal of the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) later this year.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement will now see the two nations strengthen security cooperation, conduct joint military exercises, share intelligence, and build Somalia's police capacity as they prepare to take over national security beginning January 2025.

It signals a new era of cooperation at a critical moment when Kenya has expressed unease about its troops' departure from Somalia, with the scheduled exit of ATMIS troops in December this year.

The two countries are also seeking to boost relations through political consultations, trade, health, and education.

These efforts follow strained relations between the two countries due to tensions caused by the maritime border dispute in 2021.

High-level engagements to mend the two countries began the following year after the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was shortly afterwards invited to Nairobi by former President Uhuru Kenyatta for bilateral talks. The two nations agreed to improve relations and coordinate their efforts to ensure the protection of civilians of both countries and upscale the fight against terrorism.

The agreements included a request for the resumption of Kenya Airways flights to Mogadishu, which was actualised in February this year, and the resumption of Miraa trade and access to the fish market.

An agreement to open the border between the two countries to free movement of persons and increase trade volumes is, however, pending following hesitation by Kenya on possible repercussions of the move after the ATMIS troops' withdrawal.

Between last year and this year, ATMIS has reduced its presence in Somalia by 5,000 troops and handed over 13 forward operating bases to the Somali National Army.

Another batch is expected to exit in the coming month ahead of the final batch in December, as the participating countries prepare their forces for the next mission.

The Somali government has since requested a post-ATMIS force to help with the final transition, under the leadership of the national security agencies and the Somalia National Army.

Representatives from the AU-ATMIS police-contributing countries met in Addis Ababa this week to discuss the next force, whose key mandate will include preventing a reversal of the gains made in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

"As ATMIS support ends on December 31, discussions included transitioning to a new AU role, with AU police playing a crucial part. Further discussions revolved around deployment, rotation, and financial management, addressing challenges and planning for post-ATMIS in Somalia," the AU Political Affairs, Peace and Security Commission said on Thursday.

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