BY ABDIQANI HASSAN | REUTERS
Kismayo airport in southern Somalia refused to allow an Ethiopian plane to land on Monday, a witness said, amid heightened tensions between the federal government and the regional leadership ahead of elections on Thursday.
Somalia’s central government said on Saturday it would not recognize the result of an upcoming vote to elect a president of Jubbaland, a key battleground state for counter-terrorism operations, saying the candidate selection process violated the national constitution.
The Jubbaland election commission has said the vote would go ahead on Thursday.
Security analysts say the spat has the potential to cause friction between neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, longtime allies each with significant numbers of peacekeepers in the Horn of Africa nation.
A staff member at Kismayo airport, who gave his name as Ismail, said the plane took off from Gode in southeastern Ethiopia and eventually landed in the Somali town of Baidoa. It was not certain if the plane was civilian or military.
“It wanted to land at Kismayo airport but was denied clearance because it did not send information in advance,” Ismail told Reuters by telephone.
Incumbent Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, who is seeking re-election this week, is a key security partner for Kenya, while Ethiopia has grown closer to the federal government in Mogadishu in the last year.
Kismayo hosts AMISOM from Sector 2 (Kenya) and Sector 6 (Burundian, Kenyan, Ethiopian). A source says Cmdr of Sector 6 who is Ethiopian proposed 2 days ago deployment of units of ENDF at Kismayo airport; Kenyan Cmdrs asked him to bring a written request and eventually denied him.
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) August 19, 2019
BREAKING Kenya Defence Forces reportedly denies an Ethiopian plane from landing at the Kismayo Airport, a source at Jubaland administrative capital informs Dalsan Media.This amidst talk that #Kenya & #Ethiopia may have vested interest in the coming regional presidential elections pic.twitter.com/Diuvlv6GXt
— Radio Dalsan (@RadioDalsan1) August 19, 2019
AMISOM Commander Gen Yilma expected in Kismayo shortly to ease Kenya-Ethiopia standoff over Jubaland.
An Ethiopian aircraft allegedly with troops on board was denied permission to land at Kismayo Airport on 19 August.
Meanwhile tensions reported elsewhere between 2 in Gedo. pic.twitter.com/ioL5XNwkRb
— Rashid Abdi (@RAbdiAnalyst) August 20, 2019