The Kenyan government is making fresh efforts to negotiate with Somalia as a way of ending the maritime conflict between the two countries after the collapse of previous talks, senior government officials have told the Sunday Nation.
Kenya is also set to file a complaint with the Norwegian and British governments, whom it accuses of fuelling the conflict.
"Dialogue is the best way to solve a dispute involving two countries. And this is the route that we are pursuing for now," Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, the government spokesperson, told the Sunday Nation.
The new development comes after United Nations monitors warned in a confidential report that Western commercial oil exploration in disputed areas of Somalia and discrepancies over which authorities can issue licences to companies could spark further conflict in Somalia.
The tussle began in August 2014 when Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, for unlawful operations in her maritime territory measuring 100,000 square kilometres.
“Whereas Kenya filed a response of one volume, Somalia filed 10 volumes of documents with each at least 250 pages. Other than that, Somalia appears to be receiving considerable help in terms of financial assistance and legal advice from Western corporations and foreign masters,” Prof Peter Kagwanja, an expert on security, governance and strategic issues and the head of the Africa Policy Institute, said.
In the UN Monitoring Group’s latest annual report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea, Norwegian oil firm DNO and Canadian-listed Africa Oil Corp AOI. V are cited as some of the companies whose activities in Somalia could spark a conflict.
“In this case, the involvement of a Norwegian company on one side and of a Swedish-owned/Canada-based company on the other, is even more disturbing, considering the long-standing implication of Norway and Sweden in promoting peace and dialogue in Somalia,” Reuters quotes the report.
Senior government officials who confided in the Sunday Nation are blaming Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed alias Farmajo and Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire popularly known as Hassan Khayre, for working with some Western governments and multinational corporations to escalate the dispute.
President Farmaajo holds both the Somali and American citizenship.
Hassan Khayre, a former oil executive is a dual citizen of Somalia and Norway. He has previously served as the director of Soma Oil and Gas, a private oil company formed in 2013 to explore natural resources in Somalia.
Soma Oil and Gas was the first international company to sign an oil contract with the Somali government, an issue that led to investigations by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
Other than Mr Khayre, the other key persons in the company are billionaire Michael Howard, a member of Britain’s House of Lords where he is referred to as Baron Howard of Lympne, and Russian billionaire Alexander Djaparidze, the CEO and largest shareholder of Eurasia Drilling Company.
Somalia wants the ICJ to define the boundary as laid down by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international sea laws while Kenya wants the boundary to remain in accordance to the maritime boundary that former President Daniel Moi pronounced and declared in 1979.
The Kenyan government has asked Somalia to settle the matter through negotiations led by the Foreign Affairs ministers. But meetings between the two ministers have not borne any fruits.
Deliberations of a similar meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Farmajo have not been made public but indications point out that no solution was reached.
Some analysts say that the sponsors of the conflict are behind efforts to revive the secessionist agenda of the Northern Frontier District Independence Party.
Kenya is also wary of a recent meeting between Tanzania President John Magufuli and Mr Farmajo with regional observers pointing fingers at its neighbours Tanzania, Ethiopia and Eritrea as the dispute escalates.
“Due to the nature of the conflict, other key players in the dispute include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates,” says Dr Hassan Khannenje, the Director HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies.
If the court rules against Kenya, the country will lose all the rights to the continental shelf and as a result will have to seek permission either from Somalia or Tanzania so as to use the Indian Ocean. Such a ruling will also affect other countries that depend on the Kenyan ports for movements of goods among them Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and parts of Tanzania. Prof Kagwanja says that even a ruling favouring Kenya is not likely to end the dispute.
Dr Duncun Ojwang, a lecturer at Africa Nazarene University, argues that Kenya should disregard the ICJ process, and push for the dispute to be resolved as a regional matter.