Somalia early Tuesday morning announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with Kenya in the latest escalation of a spat between the two.
Officials in the Kenyan capital said on Tuesday morning they have not received any formal communication from Mogadishu on severing ties.
The announcement comes a day after Muse Bihi, the leader of the semi-autonomous Somaliland, arrived in Nairobi for talks with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Osman Dubbe, the Somali Minister for Information, declared the news on national television a few minutes to 2am, breaking tradition of countries making such pronouncements during the day.
Dubbe said Kenya had “constantly interfered” with Somalia’s internal affairs and that Nairobi was violating Somalia’s sovereignty.
He said Kenyan diplomats in Mogadishu will have seven days to leave the country.
This came just a week after Mogadishu expelled Kenyan Ambassador to Somalia Lucas Tumbo and recalled their envoy to Nairobi, Mohamud Ahmed Tarzan, following a similar complaint of interference.
Somalia had also submitted a complaint to the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), to include the spat with Kenya during the upcoming virtual summit on Tigray scheduled for December 20.
Kenya is the second country in a year after Guinea with which Somalia has cut ties over the Somaliland issue.
As Mogadishu made its move, Nairobi was hosting Bihi for bilateral talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Both sides on Monday said they had agreed on a number of issues and would continue discussions on Tuesday on business and security cooperation.
With the cutting of diplomatic ties, it means the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu and Somalia’s mission in Nairobi will be shut and their officials sent back home. But both countries, based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, will remain obligated to offer visa and other travel and immigration services to nationals of either country.
In fact, each country will remain obligated to protect premises owned by either side on their host territories.
However, despite having legal obligation to protect each other’s citizens, the actual protection of each other’s nationals may be granted to a third acceptable state.
It was unclear by Tuesday morning what will happen to military cooperation as Kenya sent troops to Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Legally, it is Amisom to make a decision about troop movements, but in consultation with the UN and troop contributing countries.
About 350,000 Somali refugees also live in Kenya, most of them in refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. Kenya will have to continue protecting them under the international humanitarian law.
What may be exposed, however, are the properties owned by Somali businesses and politicians in Nairobi.