On 26 September, troops from the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and Somali National Army (SNA) exchanged fire along the border between Bulahawa and Mandera towns amidst protests over the alleged abduction and killing of three Somali nationals by the KDF. The non-lethal firefight is the second spike in tensions between the two countries this year. In March, fighting between SNA and Jubaland forces spilled across the border into Kenya. The accompanying articles from Garowe Online, an independent Somali newspaper focusing on political and security affairs, and The Daily Nation, a popular Kenyan newspaper, outline and contextualize the incident.

According to the first excerpted article from Garowe Online, hundreds of Somalis gathered in three border towns to protest the conduct and presence of the KDF in the region, believing the KDF had abducted and likely executed three Somalis. Tensions between KDF and SNA forces in the area are heightened, the article states, because of accusations that Kenya is protecting Jubaland security forces from the SNA (Jubaland’s president, who is backed by Kenya, is clashing with the federal government
of Somalia over issues of regional autonomy). The Daily Nation reports that during the protests, Kenyan troops manning a border post fired shots “to deter” approaching Somali demonstrators. SNA troops stationed nearby responded and the two forces exchanged gunfire for several minutes. There were no reported casualties on either side.

The second article from Garowe Online states that additional KDF troops have deployed to the area amidst heightened tensions. Eyewitnesses cited in the article said the troops are “armed to the teeth,” but did not provide further details on their equipment. It remains unclear what the newly deployed troops’ immediate mission is. According to the article, the majority of these troops are not a part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (the United Nations-approved regional peacekeeping operation) to which Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and several other nations contribute troops. The protests and firefight described in the accompanying articles constitute the most recent flare-up between two countries whose continued cooperation is integral to the fight against Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab.

…Somali and Kenyan troops engaged in a minutes-long firefight on Saturday at the two countries’ shared border, local officials and witnesses said after the Kenyan side fired shots to deter Somali demonstrators from approaching…

Source: “Protests Against KDF Intensify in Troubled Region of Somalia,” Garowe Online (Somalia – Puntland), 28 September 2020. https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/protests-against-kdf-intensify-in-troubled-region-in-somalia

And in the last three days, protestors carrying Somalia’s national flags have been flooding the border town, calling for an immediate withdrawal of KDF from Somalia, over accusations of allegedly attacking locals besides abducting three people in recent days under controversial circumstances…. But the SNA troops have often been at loggerheads with the KDF team who they accuse of protecting the Jubaland security forces.

Source: “Somali, Kenyan Troops Exchange Gunfire at Shared Border,” The Daily Nation (Kenya), 27 September 2020. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/africa/kenya-somali-troops-exchange-gunfire-2372936

Somali and Kenyan troops engaged in a minutes-long firefight on Saturday at the two countries’ shared border, local officials and witnesses said after the Kenyan side fired shots to deter Somali demonstrators from approaching…. The Somali forces close to the area intervened in the situation by engaging (in a) gunfight with the Kenyans…

Source: “More KDF Troops Deployed Near Somalia Border After Clashes with SNA,” Garowe Online (Somalia – Puntland), 4 October 2020. https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/more-kdf-troops-deployed-near-somalia-border-amid-clashes-with-sna

Reports indicate that a suspected KDF contingent “abducted” three people within the vicinity of the border town of El-Wak and subsequent killing of another resident under controversial circumstances in Balad-Hawo. The three are yet to be located and it’s believed that they were executed…. More troops from the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] have been deployed along the Kenya-Somalia border…amid simmering tensions between troops from the two neighboring nations.

Officials said that the fresh contingent is mainly non-AMISOM troops and are deployed along the fragile border amid rising tensions….
Eyewitnesses said the troops were armed to teeth and it’s not clear what their immediate mission was.

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