By Maalik Som
The Somali government has distanced itself from plans by Kenya to construct a barrier wall between the two countries.
Somalia said it was not consulted in the planned erection of the wall as announced by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery.
“We did not get official communication from Kenya. We only read the matter through the media,” said Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Noor.
“While Kenya is at liberty to build anything within its borders, this matter affects both friendly countries and it should be done in consultation,” he said.
He said his government welcomes any attempts to tame “the blood-thirsty al Shabaab”.
He was however non-committal whether the wall is a solution to al Shabaab attacks and the entry of illegal immigrants.
“The benefits of the wall are hypothetical, as of now. We can talk about it if the two governments agree on the way forward,” he said.
Nkaissery said the building of the wall will start this week. He said the construction will initially start in Mandera county, which is in the grip of terror networks believed to be from Somalia.
Kenya shares an 860km-long border with Somalia, stretching from Mandera Point One in Mandera county to Kiunga Island in Lamu.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said the project is part of a larger plan to ensure that Kenya’s borders are properly secured.
“This is a multi-faceted project that will incorporate several systems, including physical obstructions, creation of buffer zones, electronic surveillance, and enhanced patrols both on land and aerial,” he said.
He declined to indicate the cost of the project, citing the secrecy of security matters. However, if a similar wall erected by Israel against the Palestinians on the West Bank is anything to go buy, the expense is mind-boggling.
In Israel, for instance, the construction of the 670-kilometre wall cost $2 million (Sh183.7 million) a kilometre. If the same technology is to be used, Kenya will spend a whopping Sh1.54 trillion on the construction of the security wall.
This is more than Kenya’s entire 2013-2014 financial Budget.
Israel’s ‘Apartheid Wall’, as it is called by the Palestinians, consumes $670 million (Sh61 billion) in maintenance annually.
According to records available online, the wall is made up of a concrete base with a five-metre-high wire-and-mesh superstructure.
Rolls of razor wire and a four-metre-deep ditch are placed on one side. The structure is also fitted with electronic sensors and has an earth-covered “trace road” beside it.
According to analysts, too much is at stake if the planned project comes to fruition. “International laws must be adhered to. Kenya and Somalia have already many other thorny issues to sort out,” one analyst said.
In 2014 Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice, over a maritime dispute. The matter is still pending in The Hague-based court.