Somalia-Ethiopia war forced Kenya and Iran to sever ties

Ethiopian soldiers walk towards Somalian army in the Ogaden desert during fights at the Somalian and Ethiopian border, on June 14, 1978, in a war for control over Ogaden. Kenya and Iran had a falling-out over the conflict. PHOTO | AFP
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By LEVIN OPIYO

n early 1978, Kenyan-Iranian relations came under great strain over the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Kenya suspected that Iran was actively supporting Somalia and also arming it with weapons supplied by Britain and America.

While Iran and Kenya’s Western allies leaned towards Somalia in the conflict, Nairobi was sympathetic to the Soviet-backed Ethiopia, mainly because of Somalia’s claims to the northeastern part of Kenya.

Further annoying Kenya was a statement by the Iranian monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that his country would not stand and watch if Somalia were invaded. The remarks caused a furore and ignited a heated debate in Kenya.

Foreign Affairs minister Munyua Waiyaki warned that Iran was not an African country and therefore had no right to interfere in African affairs.

Ethiopian soldiers walk towards Somalian army in the Ogaden desert during fights at the Somalian and Ethiopian border, on June 14, 1978, in a war for control over Ogaden. Kenya and Iran had a falling-out over the conflict. PHOTO | AFP

To calm the situation, the Iranian ambassador to Kenya, Ahmad Tavakoli, on January 30, 1978 said Tehran’s policy in the Horn of Africa had been misunderstood, adding that Iran had “already proposed to both Somalia and Ethiopia to explore all avenues for finding a peaceful solution”.

 

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