A diplomatic passport is a passport issued to persons who work as a representative of a government. Traditionally, under a bilateral arrangement, diplomatic passport holders are granted entry visas at ports of entry.
However, the escalating conflict between Kenya and Somalia has taken a new twist after three senior Somalia government officials who were scheduled to attend the launch of a European Union-sponsored cross-border conflict management programme were refused entry at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for lacking visas.
The diplomatic passports in their possession were simply passports used by diplomats to identify them to manage negotiations and other official affairs on behalf of their country.
Those denied entries are junior Minister of Water and Energy Osman Libah and legislators Ilyas Ali Hassan and Zamzam Dahir.
BREAKING: #Kenya police closes several Somali #Hawala companies in #Nairobi this morning, hours after senior Somali officials was denied entry to #Nairobi following the worsening relations between #Kenya & #Somalia due to the maritime dispute. No comment from Somali govt so far.
— Morad News (@MoradNews) May 21, 2019
At the centre of the dispute is a narrow triangle on the Indian Ocean measuring 62,000 square miles. It is not yet clear to which country it belongs, but it is believed to hold large deposits of oil and gas.
In February, Nairobi recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu, Lt Gen (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo, stating that Somalia’s decision to auction an oil block in London amounted to aggression against Kenyans and their resources.
Consequently, Nairobi sent away the Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Nur and escalated an ongoing case at The Hague into a political battle between Nairobi and Mogadishu.
According to the Somali officials, Immigration officials at JKIA told the three diplomats that they should have obtained visas at the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu before proceeding despite them holding diplomatic passports.
The three later told Somalia-based Radio Dalsan that they were told they would have to return to Mogadishu, even though some of their colleagues travelling on foreign passports had been allowed in.
“The Kenyan authorities at the airport informed these guys that such plan has changed, and now everyone has to obtain visa from Kenya’s Mission in Mogadishu,” a senior Somali official in the delegation, but who travelled on a foreign passport, told the Nation on Monday night.
“The officials learnt this change upon arrival as there was no prior communication regarding this.”
While it seems the initial policy towards Somali diplomatic and service passport holders has changed, Mogadishu claims it is not aware.