A Djibouti-led mission to resolve accusations of territorial violations between Kenya and Somalia has concluded a fact-finding mission in both countries.
Sent by Djibouti's President Ismael Guelleh, the mission comprised a team of diplomats and military chiefs nominated by President Guelleh and visited Kenya and Somalia past week to verify claims by Mogadishu that Nairobi had interfered with Somalia's territory.
Kenya is hoping to use the findings to rebut Somalia's accusations.
The delegation led by Djibouti's ambassadors to Somalia and Kenya, Aden Hassan Aden and Yacin Elmi Bouh respectively, toured Mogadishu, Nairobi and the Mandera-Gedo border area, on a five-day fact-finding mission after which they will table a report to President Guelleh.
The report of the fact-finding mission may not be binding on either country, but leaders of the three countries agreed that it should de-escalate tension.
In Kenya, the team met Foreign Affairs (Raychelle Omamo) and Defence (Monica Juma) Cabinet secretaries was well as the Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Gen Robert Kibochi.
Kenya denied Somalia's accusation of territorial violations and provided satellite images of Somalia's recent troop movements in the last eight months, indicating the Somalia Forces were now just about 20 metres from the common border.
Nairobi sees Somalia's deployment of troops as a threat while Kenyan troops remain cantoned at their camp, some five kilometres away from the border.
Further, Kenya says the border tensions have disrupted free movement for the border communities, many of whom have intermarried, as well as for children schooling on the Kentan side. Kenya' Ministry of Education says some 1,200 pupils from Somalia are enrolled in Kenyan schools in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa since the reopening in January.
Mogadishu on December 15 severed diplomatic ties with Kenya accusing the country of "constant interference" in Somalia affairs.
When the Djiboutian delegation toured Mogadishu on Saturday, Balal Mohamed Osman, Somalia's State Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and his Permanent Secretary Mohamed Ali-Nur Haji met the officials and tabled four allegations against Kenya, including violation of Somali airspace and maritime territorial waters, supporting militia to destabilise Somalia, and that Kenyan forces serving under the African Union peacekeeping missions Amisom had 'abandoned' their stations inside Somalia, allowing Al Shabaab terrorist group to resurge.
The maritime border dispute is a matter subject to a court case at the International Court of Justice.
Macharia Munene, a Kenyan professor of History and International Relations at the USIU-Africa told The EastAfrican that the mission was likely to buy time for the two countries to re-engage and will not pass judgement on Kenya.
"In essence it will create an opportunity to reduce tensions because a hearing desk ensures both sides can focus on the solution," he said. Kenya's Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau told The EastAfrican that the Djiboutian delegation was proposed by President Guelleh and endorsed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad). Djibouti is currently the chair of Igad.
Mr Macharia said: "Among the things agreed at the sidelines of the December 2020, 38th Extraordinary Summit was that through the good offices of the President of Djibouti. Djibouti would undertake a verification mission along the Kenya border with Somalia in order to establish the veracity of the baseless accusations that were being leveled against Kenya by the Somali government."
"The verification mission has taken place successfully and with co-operation between the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence of the two countries. Kenya looks forward to a positive report that will categorically debase all the accusations once and for all."
Though endorsed by regional bloc Igad, the fact-finding mission is made up of Djiboutian officials only including Gen Osman Noor Soubagleh, a former Force Commander of the African Union Mission, who is now a senior Advisor on military affairs for the African-Union endorsed stabilisation force in Somalia.