Leaked Somali document on maritime dispute heightens tensions with Kenya

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Commercial, geopolitical and internal players behind Kenya-Somalia standoff. TEA GRAPHIC | NMG

The situation is expected to deteriorate further as Nairobi digests the latest developments and considers its next moves.

The Kenyan government is refusing to comment, due to the sensitivity of the matter, on a leaked Somali government document that shows Mogadishu is auctioning offshore oil blocks in a disputed maritime area in a case that is currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is due to make a ruling regarding the disputed oil-rich 100km Indian Ocean triangle in September.

In 2014, Somalia filed a suit with the ICC accusing Kenya of encroaching on 100,000 square kilometres of marine territory with potential oil and gas deposits in the Indian Ocean

At stake is the loss of 26% of Kenya’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 85% of the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles (EEZ) limit, the East African reported.

According to Nairobi, the marine boundary is determined by a parallel to the line of latitude to the east as per the standards set by the colonial powers, which has been adopted in the marine border between Kenya-Tanzania, Tanzania-Mozambique, and Mozambique-South Africa.

Mogadishu, however, asserts that the boundary should extend to the south-east as an extension of the land border, which would take a large swathe of what Kenya considers its EEZ.

But as the dispute drags on, Mogadishu has unilaterally preempted the court’s decision, according to a leaked Somali government report “Offshore Somalia 2019” which shows that in early February the Horn of Africa country had exhibited seismic oil block data off the Kenyan port of Lamu to potential buyers in London.

The report outlines how successful bidding companies will be able to commence four years of exploration after January next year, followed by two renewal periods each lasting two years.

Relations between the two neighbouring countries have been rocky for months in the wake of the maritime dispute, involving tit-for-tat diplomatic moves and retaliation.

In May, Somali diplomats were banned from attending an international conference in Nairobi. In return, all NGOs operating in Somalia but based in Nairobi were ordered by Mogadishu to either relocate to Somalia or cease all operations completely.

The situation is expected to deteriorate further as Nairobi digests the latest developments and considers its next moves.

In the interim, the only beneficiaries of this dispute are the Al Shabaab militants which have been targeting civilians and security forces alike in both countries.

Security and military coordination between the neighbours is vital if the extremist group is to be defeated.

SOURCE: African News Agency