By Abdiqafar Gababa:
The Mandera triangle is a setup of a land where the three neighboring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia meet. The Kenyan side is represented by Mandera town which is the capital of Mandera County in the former North Eastern province of Kenya. Mandera is inhibited by Garreh, Murulle, Degodia, and other smaller tribes.
The Ethiopian side is represented by Suftu, also known as Malka suftu which is one of the three towns in the Dolo Odo district of the Liban zone of Ethiopia. The town is inhibited by Somalis from the Degodia and Garreh clans of Ethiopia.
Somalia is represented by Beled Hawo (Hawo city) formerly Bula Hawo (Hawo village). This city has grown rapidly and is the second largest city in Gedo, the largest province in Somalia. This town is inhibited by both the Guri and Galti Marrehaan sub clans of Somalia.
The three borderlands have also suffered from the impact of the long war in Somalia, violent extremism in the region, inter clan warfare and frequent droughts. In the early eighties, Beled Hawo in Somalia was the business and development capital of the region. It was a hub for business and trade, entertainment Centre and tourist attraction point. The town was connected to electricity way back then while Mandera and Suftu were in darkness. War has reversed all this development and today the three-border region is revolving around the town of Mandera in Kenya which has become the leader.
Mandera residents have shown good neighborliness and have been very kind to their brothers and sisters from Somalia since the civil war broke out. Most of the Somali refugees have found their way into the refugee camps in Kenya through Mandera while others have travelled through the Mandera road network airstrip to many other cities in the World capital, a Diaspora that is now sending remittances consistently to their relatives back home.
Most of the Somali traders are doing business and selling their goods directly in Mandera. The largest regional livestock market in Mandera is also an economic glue that binds pastoralists from the three borderlands. Mandera county referral hospital is also jointly utilized by the population in the three border towns. Perhaps the biggest sacrifice made by the residents of Mandera for their neighbours from Somalia and Ethiopia is in the area of education. It is estimated that there are over 1000 foreign students from Ethiopia in Kenyan schools at the border. There is only one designated border crossing point in this tri-border area. This is the Mandera Border control point. The other commonly used crossing point is at Malka Suftu where people cross the seasonal Daua River with locally assembled canoes made of used barrels and wooden sticks.
It is quite clear that nothing will stop the Somalis leaving in Mandera triangle from interacting with each other. They share the same language, faith, culture, lifestyle and a common history. Not even the proposed wall between Kenya and Somalia will cut the historical links and ties between Somalis of Mandera, Beled Hawo and Suftu.
The three neighboring governments should therefore come up with an effective border management mechanism to ensure free flow of government functions of immigration, customs and policies with the aim of controlling and regulating the flow of people and goods across the three borders in the matters of national interest.
The three districts collectively form a huge economic block that needs to be harnessed for the benefit of area residents as well as their respective countries.
Gababa is a Nep Journal Correspondent.