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Kenya, Somalia: an African hot spot coming off the boil

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One tense and uneasy area of Africa -- the border region between Kenya and Somalia -- looks as though it may soon come off the boil. A cordial meeting between Somalia's President Siad Barre and President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya at the recent Organization of African Unity summit in Nairobi seems to have brought about a very welcome easing of tension between the two countries.

And Peter Oloo Aringo, a high-level Kenya government minister, just flew to Somalia to put more substance into those improved relations. He is working to establish contacts between Somalia and Kenya in trade and commerce.

One signal that President Barre, who appears to be under pressure from many groups in Somalia to make peace with Kenya is personally eager to create a rapprochement comes in an interview in a Kenya newspaper, the Standard, written by its editor in chief, George Githii.

Barre said in the article that officials of both countries were meeting along the border "to devise ways of ending banditry" and that the meeting had been successful. He reported that Somalia is stepping up efforts to identify "criminals and subversive elements operating against Kenya."

President Barre also said that the easing tensions should be followed up with the creation of areas of cooperation such as removing travel restrictions and promoting trade links.

This kind of talk has not come before from any Somali leader. President Barre even went on record as saying: "We in Somalia have no claim whatsoever on any part of Kenya's territory. It is, of course, a historical fact that there are people of Somali origin in Kenya but we regard them as Kenyans."

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