NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia on Monday demanded that Kenya explain why it detained Somali lawmakers at an airport when they were traveling as part of a government delegation, in the latest diplomatic row between the East African neighbors.
Kenya, along with several other African states, has sent troops to Somalia to help the Mogadishu-based government fight al Shabab, Islamist rebels with ties to al Qaeda. But relations between the two countries have been testy in recent years.
Somalia and Kenya dispute the location of their maritime boundary line in the Indian Ocean, and Kenya has sold oil and gas-drilling rights to foreign companies in the disputed zone. Somalia has also protested Kenya’s plan to build a 700-km wall along their border.
The latest row comes after Somali lawmakers traveling to Turkey with Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke arrived in Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in the capital of Nairobi on Saturday.
The lawmakers were not given visas on arrival and were detained several hours, said Somali government spokesman Abdisalam Aato.
All flights from Somalia to Kenya stop for extra security checks at the town of Wajir, near the Somali border, but the flight the lawmakers were on did not do this. The Somali government said the country’s leadership is exempt from rule.
“The Federal Government of Somalia protests this unwarranted incident at JKIA and expects full justification and explanation from Kenya,” Somalia’s government said in a statement.
The Kenyan presidency was not immediately available for comment.
Kenyans say extra security checks on are needed because security at the Mogadishu International Airport is poor.
Earlier this month a bomb was smuggled on to a plane at Mogadishu airport. It exploded in mid-air but only killed the suspected suicide bomber.
Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Katharine Houreld