Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke was yesterday detained for several hours in Nairobi for breaching protocol.
The embarrassing incident that could test diplomatic relations between Kenya and war-torn Somalia happened mid-morning yesterday at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Sharmarke could not be cleared in Nairobi because his plane had not been inspected at Wajir Airport, as is the requirement for all flights to and from Somalia.
“This is a real breach of security,” an official at JKIA told the Standard on Sunday. By 2 pm, security and foreign affairs officers had not agreed on how to handle the Somali leader.
Security officers had demanded that Mr Sharmarke be sent back to Mogadishu, notwithstanding that the plane he had arrived in had left immediately after the entourage disembarked.
But the department of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already provided the visiting head of government with a fleet of cars — which would remain parked at the VIP arrivals gate for several hours.
The chartered plane carrying the Somali top official and his delegation touched down at 10.30 am, and left for Hargeisa in Somaliland. Officials at the JKIA disclosed that the jet was chartered from Freedom Airline Express. Mr Sharmarke was in a 20-member delegation of top officials of his government, including three ministers.
The delegation was to early today make a connecting flight to an unnamed Middle East country, after a day-long stop-over in Nairobi. Kenya has enjoyed rather cordial relations with unstable Somalia, and is leading the fight against Al-Shabaab militia group that has ravaged the country.
Some Somalis view the pursuit of the militia inside their country as an unwarranted invasion, a possible link to the recent mass-casualty attack staged in a base in El Adde.
Somalia has dragged Kenya to an international court where it is demanding that international borders be re-drawn to grant it most of the Kenyan coastline. A decision is yet to be made on the same.