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Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute: Who Owns the Oil Beneath the Indian Ocean?



A maritime border dispute between Somalia and Kenya has sparked diplomatic crisis between the two east African countries, a move that could threaten stability in the region and dwindle the fight against al Shabab.

The two neighbours are engaged in a border dispute in the Indian Ocean, a 100 square kilometres triangle rich in oil and gas. Kenya has accused Somalia of auctioning part of its oil blocks in the Indian Ocean to Western oil firms during an oil conference in London in February. Somalia denied Kenya’s allegations, and said the conference was meant to present the results of seismic surveys and showcase possible locations in the country where oil reserves can be extracted in the future. After the London event, Kenya ordered Somalia’s ambassador in Nairobi to leave the country and recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu.

Both Somalia and Kenya claim ownership of the 100km2 area in the Indian Ocean. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Nairobi of encroaching part of its territory. Kenya tried to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case from the ICJ and settle the dispute of the court, but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.

Somalia wants the maritime boundary to run southeast as an extension of the land border while Kenya says the border should run eastwards following the line of latitude. The ICJ is expected to deliver a judgment later this year.

If Somalia wins the ICJ ruling, Kenya will respect the ruling but will maintain its hostile actions until something happens to restore its dented ego like a negotiated truce by another country.

Kenya is likely to appeal the ruling for various reasons including the fact that both countries need to have agreed to refer the matter to ICJ, but Somalia went it alone. If Kenya wins, which is unlikely, Somalia will likely welcome the judgement.

The case was to be heard in September initially, but was postponed to November following a request by Kenya. The ICJ may also review another request made by Kenya for a 12-month delay of the public hearing. Last week, Kenya’s Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki asked the court to grant a year’s postponement, which Nairobi thinks would be sufficient time to prepare. Somalia has always opposed to the postponement.


In May, ties between the two deteriorated after Kenya suspended direct flights between Mogadishu and Nairobi, and ordered all flights from Somalia to land at Wajir Airport in northeast of the country for security checks before heading to Nairobi, and denied Somali government officials entry into the country after arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. The officials were due to attend a European Union-sponsored cross-border conflict management summit.

The Somali representatives were holding diplomatic passports, and were expecting a visa on arrival. But Kenya said they must get visas from its embassy in Mogadishu.

Somalia retaliated by banning government officials from participating any meeting held in Kenya and ordered Non-Governmental Organisations that operate in Somalia but based in Nairobi to relocate to Mogadishu.

Most UN and Western organisations including humanitarian agencies operating in the Horn of Africa nation are based in Nairobi.

The dispute between Somalia and Kenya could scale down security cooperation and the fights against terrorism.

The diplomatic crisis could jeopardise the security cooperation between Kenya and Somalia which will be a big boon for al-Shabab, which is a pain in the neck for both countries. Mogadishu and Nairobi can ill afford to take their eyes off the ball – Al- Shabab, their common enemy, and waste their energy on resolvable diplomatic disputes.

Somalia is battling al-Shabab, a terror group affiliated to al-Qaeda, which wants to overthrow the internationally-backed government and impose its own interpretation of Islamic sharia.

The group has been driven out of major towns including the capital, Mogadishu, but it still has the ability to conduct high profile attacks in Somalia and beyond, Kenya being the most vulnerable. This year, al- Shabab conducted a number of attacks inside Kenya including an assault on an upmarket hotel in Nairobi in January that killed 21 people, and another in June near the border with Somalia, targeting a police vehicle with a landmine, killing eight police officers.

Kenya has thousands of troops in Somalia under the African Union mission supporting Mogadishu’s fight against al-Shabab.

If the diplomatic row persists, it could affect security operations, slowing down the fight against al-Shabab in southern Somalia where Kenyan troops are based, give rise to nationalist sentiments in both countries, putting Somali refugees and Somali-owned business in Kenya in danger, and al-Shabab may use it as a recruitment tool.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Njoroge Gitonga

    October 8, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Kenya will never cede this maritime boundery to Somalia. Somalia has a long history of making territorial claims on its Ethiopian and Kenyan neighbours. In its wars against its neighbours starting from the Shifta campaign against Kenya and the Ogaden war against Ethiopia, Somalia has always been defeated. Somalia has never fully recovered from the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre who was removed from office through the covert military actions of both Kenya and Ethiopia. Up to today Kenya and Ethiopia maintain a military mutual defence treaty against their aggressive and troublesome Somali neighbour.

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The ODM Win in Kibra Is What Happens When You Have a Smart Ground Game

For Ruto’s Tangatanga group, the Kibra by-election was actually what Kenyans call ‘kwa ground, vitu ni tofauti’



On Thursday, the people of Kibra reaffirmed their support for the Orange Democratic Movement party by electing its candidate Imran Okoth in a by-election seen as a popularity contest between former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the deputy president, William Ruto.

They voted to make sure ODM retains it seat after the death of its Member of Parliament Ken Okoth, even when Ruto spent unprecedented amount of money to change the voting pattern and flip the constituency to Jubilee – his wing of Jubilee.

“This is our bedroom, we must secure it,” Odinga told his supporters.  On Thursday, they did it.

The win was made possible by loyal party supporters and the kind of candidate ODM had in Okoth, and the party machinery that made the constituency one of its strongholds. It was also as a result of diversity of the party supporters and members.

Things were always good for ODM in Kibra. The party had the grassroots muscle but the desperate Tangatanga group began to use money and insults. But that didn’t matter; voters sent a clear message that it remains an ODM stronghold.

Money and division were on the ballot on Thursday, after a campaign polluted by insults from Ruto’s Jubilee, and dishing out money during the campaign and on the actual election day. But money lost.  Ruto and his team used everything – and nothing worked for them.

The deputy president promised the Kibra people prosperity if they elect his candidate. He dismissed the work of the late MP, Ken Okoth, who was regarded as one of Kenya’s best MPs when it comes on the use of constituency fund, and his projects uplifting the lives of his people – improving the standard of education, creating jobs for the youth, and creating enabling environment for local businesses to thrive, among others. Ruto paraded himself a champion of the poor when he is not.

Okoth ran a campaign that focused on housing affordability, providing water and electricity, expanding education opportunities, and continuing his late brother’s legacy to further develop the constituency.

While Ruto was not on the ballot on October 7 by-election, the Kibra race offered a reminder that his presence has pervaded the race.

Issues do matter in an election, but not so much in Kenya. However, in Kibra, voters must have looked at the work of Imran Okoth. Okoth took care of the Kibra constituents’ needs when his brother was ill and hospitalised in a foreign country. He was the chairman of the local constituency fund. Ruto’s candidate, Mc Donald Mariga, a former football player, is not a resident of Kibra and has never voted in any election, not even on Thursday because he is not a registered voter in the constituency he wanted to lead.

Ruto insisted this special election was a contest between the opposition party ODM and the ruling Jubilee. He was wrong. Actually, the Kibra election was a contest between the handshake and Tangatanga. Close allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta supported Okoth’s election. It was between those backing the drive to unite the people of Kenya and those working hard to divide Kenyans along party and tribal lines.

ODM’s neglect cost the party two seats, one in Nyanza and another in Nairobi’s Embakassi South. So, on Thursday, they could not allow anyone to come too close to ‘Raila’s bedrock.’

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Kibra Voters Must Defeat Ruto’s Project

The deputy president has poured unprecedented amount of money and runs a zombie campaign in Kibra



When the people of Kibra head to the polls this Thursday, they will have the chance to vote in one of the most consequential parliamentary elections the country has ever seen.

Bernard Imran Okoth, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate for Thursday’s Kibra by-election, is running against Deputy President William Ruto. Okoth’s rival in this race is actually a former footballer who was handpicked by Ruto, but voters in the overwhelmingly ODM constituency are aware that McDonald Mariga is just a project who is being used as a litmus test, and not a serious candidate with an agenda.

Okoth runs a campaign that focuses on housing affordability, providing water and electricity, expanding education opportunities, and continuing his late brother’s legacy to further develop the constituency.

Ruto is promising the people of Kibra ‘transformation’ if they vote for Mariga; ending poverty, building 5,000 units and creating employment. What prevented the deputy government from doing all these in the last seven years? The answer is very simple. Ruto does not care about the people of Kibra, he is just using them to test his political influence.

While Ruto is not on the ballot on October 7 by-election, the Kibra race offers a reminder that his presence has pervaded the race.

Now, Okoth is running against Ruto rather than the actual ‘Jubilee’ candidate. The Kibra by-election is a ‘vote against Ruto.’

By midnight, when Okoth is announced as the MP-elect for Kibra, William Ruto will get to know trying to ‘invade Raila’s bedroom’ was not an easy job. Raila Odinga, the former prime minister, will continue to maintain his political status in his bedrock spanning more than thirty years.

In a constituency that gave ODM’s Ken Okoth 78 percent of the total votes in the 2017 general election, it is would be very difficult for Ruto to deliver a Mariga win that he desperately needs. The fact is that Kibra remains an ODM zone. Ruto may have become popular, politically, in some parts of this country. He forgot that politics is still local. His candidate is not a resident of Kibra, is not a registered voter in Kibra, and has never vote not only in Kibra but in his entire life.

Ruto insists this special election is a contest between the opposition party ODM and the ruling Jubilee. He is wrong. Actually, the Kibra election is a contest between the handshake and Tangatanga. Close allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta support Okoth’s election. It is between those backing the drive to unite the people of Kenya and those working hard to divide Kenyans along party and tribal lines. A heavy loss in Kibra will devastate Ruto and his Tangatanga allies.

The deputy president has poured unprecedented amount of money into this race and is running a zombie campaign in Kibra to influence its outcome, aimed to ‘teach Raila a lesson.’ Instead, voters will teach him a lesson when they defeat his project.

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Gulf Geopolitics Threatens Somalia’s Stability



Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi 'Farmajo'

When Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf countries and Egypt blockaded and cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in May 2017 for what they said was Doha’s “support for Iran and terrorism”, Somalia remained neutral and offered to mediate.

Unlike many Muslim nations which sided with Saudi Arabia and cut or downgraded their diplomatic ties with Qatar, Somalia called for a diplomatic solution to end the crisis. Saudi Arabia and its allies took Somalia’s stand as “support for Qatar.”

The Gulf crisis that was meant to isolate Qatar is ripping Somalia apart and created divisions between the federal and state governments.  Somalia’s regional administrations took advantage of Mogadishu’s weakness and sided with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in their efforts to sideline Qatar. The function of foreign affairs falls under the federal government and the states have no any role in it. It was a breach of the country’s constitution, according to the government in Mogadishu.

Saudi Arabia and its allies tried to persuade Mogadishu to end ties with Doha but the latter rejected the idea. The local media reported at the time that the UAE “tried to bribe President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo with hundreds of millions of dollars to side with them but Farmajo declined the offer.”

In 2014, when Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran over the execution of a Shia cleric, Namr al Namr, in Saudi Arabia, Somalia followed suit and cut ties with Iran, but denied it was siding with Saudi Arabia. It said Iran was a threat to its national security and closed down Imam khamanei Cultural Centre in Mogadishu. That same day, Saudi Arabia offered Somalia 50m dollars in aid.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is involved in a port modernisation programme in Berbera in Somaliland – a break-away region in northwest Somalia which declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when President Siyad Barre was toppled by an alliance of clan militia. Abu Dhabi is also building a military base in Berbera.

Somalia considers Somaliland part of its territory and views the port deal between the UAE and Somaliland “null and void and against its constitution.” The parliament in Mogadishu nullified the military base agreement between the UAE and Somaliland. Another UAE-owned company, P&O, made a deal with Puntland – a federal member state in northeast Somalia and is managing the Port of Bosaso.

The Somali central government feels undermined when foreign nations make deals with state governments and says it has the constitutional right to sign every deal involving a foreign player on behalf of all Somalia – including Somaliland.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE deteriorated further when Somali security agencies seized a UAE plane carrying close to 10m dollars in Mogadishu airport. UAE said the money was meant to pay salaries of Somali army and an anti-piracy force in Puntland. Mogadishu said the money was meant to use to destabilise the country.

The immediate former leader of Puntland, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, visited Dubai and expressed his support for the Emiratis after a diplomatic dispute between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi.

“Mogadishu is not Somalia, and Somalia is not Mogadishu,” he said.

For five years, the UAE had been training Somali forces and built an anti-piracy force in Puntland and paid their salaries. That came to an end in April when the two countries ended their military cooperation.

In retaliation, the UAE closed a hospital in the capital, Mogadishu, Sheikh Zayed Hospital, which treated more than 300 Somalis daily.

Qatar, which invested close to a half a billion dollars in health, roads, education and humanitarian assistance in Somalia, donated 30 buses to Mogadishu city administration, after the UAE stooped its assistance to Somalia. Qatar’s projects are mainly concentrated in Mogadishu.

The Gulf crisis and the differences it created between the Somali central government and regional administrations are undermining the government’s and international community’s effort to restore peace and stability and build an effective central authority. It could also destabilise the country and hamper the war on Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-linked group which is fighting to overthrow the Mogadishu government.

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