President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have admitted instability at the border has affected trade between the two states.
Speaking during the inauguration of the Moyale One Stop Border Post in Marsabit County on Wednesday, the two leaders said they have to address insecurity for economic activities to thrive.
“We must also work together because we cannot establish an economic victory if we are consistently also going to be having security challenges,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta said Ethiopians and Kenyans have a central role to play in strengthening the partnership and relationship of the two countries.
“We must work together as two neighbours to deal with those elements who live in and amongst us and threaten the peace and stability of both Kenya and Ethiopia so that we can bring wealth and change the lives of the people of Moyale,” President Kenyatta said while on the Kenyans side.
On his part, PM Abiy said that just like the infrastructure the two states were commissioning, they should work on peace and security of the area “because peace is a foundation of everything we are aspiring to transform the lives of our people”.
“If we could eliminate Al Shabaab and OLF [Oromo Liberation Front] from this region, these people can be transformed into one family, one country and one people with great joy and cooperation,” PM Abiy said.
The leaders, however, noted that the new infrastructure will help enhance regional economic integration and advised Moyale residents to take advantage of the OSBP to grow cross-border trade.
They further said the infrastructure will help promote regional integration and trade through increased people-to-people interactions.
There have been cases of militia attacking Kenya at the Moyale border, in some cases even killing.
In March this year, a suspected Ethiopian militia shot five Kenyans dead in their homes in Sessi, Moyale subcounty.
At the time, Marsabit Governor Mohamud Ali called for reinforcement of the security team on the ground and Fas tracking of negotiations between the two states.
“There have been issues between Kenya and Ethiopia and they are now getting out of hand when every other time we are losing people,” Governor Mohamud said.
The following month in April, there was gunfire between the Kenya Defence Forces and the Tabaqa militia from Ethiopia at the Moyale border.
The fight started after KDF started digging trenches to prevent illegal crossing and smuggling.
An article in The Elephant said incursions into Kenyan territory by the Ethiopian army in search of the OLF are common.
“In 2015 the Ethiopian army crossed into Kenya six times, once even taking over a police station in Illeret, Marsabit. Cross-border massacres—like the March 1997 Kokai Massacre in which 80 people including 19 police officers were killed—have been raised with the Ethiopian regime,” Dalle Abraham, a writer from Marsabit, said in September.
In late November, Ethiopian Federal Police reportedly crossed over into Kenya and abducted nine Kenyans in Moyale border town for allegedly harbouring rebels.
Moyale Deputy County Commissioner William Ole Kakimon sadi the Ethiopian authorities accused the nine of providing refuge for the Oromo Liberation Front rebels.