Kenya recalls ambassador to Somalia, orders Somali envoy out

Saturday February 16 2019

KIPCHUMBA SOME
By KIPCHUMBA SOME
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NYABOGA KIAGE
By NYABOGA KIAGE
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Kenya has recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu and ordered Somali envoy out of the country over alleged auctioning of oil and gas blocks in Kenya’s maritime territorial area that borders Somalia.

The auction took place in London, United Kingdom, last week, Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau said Saturday.

Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo was summoned back to Nairobi for urgent consultations.

'ACT OF AGGRESSION'

"This unparalleled affront and illegal grab at the resources of Kenya will not go unanswered and is tantamount to an act of aggression against the people of Kenya and their resources.

"This outrageous and provocative auction deserves and will be met with a unanimous and resounding rejection by all Kenyans as well as all people of goodwill who believe in the maintenance of international law and order and the peaceful and legal resolution of disputes," the PS Kamau said.

Blocks L21, L23, L24, L25 which are disputed

Blocks L21, L23, L24, L25 which are disputed were allegedly auctioned, according to Kenyan diplomats. PHOTO | COURTESY

Kenya's sea boundary dispute with Somalia has been simmering for years. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice asking for a proper determination of the sea border between the two countries. The case is still pending. ICJ judges allowed the case to go to full hearing despite Kenya opposition. Nairobi wanted alternative dispute resolution.

"By carelessly ignoring the internationally acceptable norms of boundary dispute resolution and or political and diplomatic disagreements, the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia has once again demonstrated that it has yet to attain and embrace the political maturity and diplomatic stance of a normal, well adjusted, and properly functioning modern government," PS Kamau said.

BORDER LINE

The area in contest is about 100,000 square kilometres, forming a triangle east of the Kenyan coast.

Somalia, which lies to the north of Kenya, wants the maritime border to continue along the line of the land border, to the southeast.

Kenya however wants the sea border to go in a straight line east, giving it more sea territory.

In 2009, Kenya and Somalia had reached an MoU and deposited it at the UN. It proclaimed that the sea border should run eastwards.

This is the latest flashpoint in the relations between the two countries that have been significantly tested in recent years over their diametrically opposed views on the leadership of Ahmed Mohamed Islam alias Madobe, the regional president of Jubaland State in southern Somalia where Kenyan troops are stationed.

Whereas Nairobi has thrown its full support behind Mr Madobe, the Somalia government of President Mohamed Abdullahi alias Farmajo, is waging a determined campaign for his removal when the Jubaland elections are held in August. Kenya played a big role in Mr Madobe’s election in 2013.

Credible sources say that, earlier in the year, President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a delegation of Kenyan-Somali elders to try and convince President Farmajo to reconsider his position on Mr Madobe.

President Kenyatta’s request, our source revealed, was rejected by the Somalia President who told the Kenyan delegation that Nairobi could pick another candidate to replace Mr Madobe.

The relations between the two neighbours were further tested in August last year when the Kenyan security authorities opened investigations into how Somalia’s deputy head of intelligence Ahmed Fahad Dahir, a key ally of President Farmajo, had acquired Somalia and Kenyan passports.

Mr Dahir, a former journalist-turned spy has been instrumental in Mogadishu’s pivot towards Qatar and away from Doha’s neighbours — Saudi Arabia, Eqypt and United Arab Emirates — who have blockaded it since mid-2017.

LARGE DEPOSITS

The buyers at Somalia’s auction are said to be from United Kingdom and Norway. Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre is a citizen of Norway.

Amb Macharia said that the government demanded that Somalia withdraws an incorrect map that it had issued at the time it auctioned the oil and gas blocks in Kenyan territory.

He said that the Kenyan government had already presented its decisions over the matter to the highest level of the Somali Government.

A narrow triangle off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometres (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention between neighbouring Kenya and Somalia. Both countries want the area because it supposedly has a large deposit of oil and gas, but it's not clear to which country it belongs.

"The position of the boundary is a grey area," said Timothy Walter, a maritime border conflict researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa.

For Kenya, however, the boundary is quite clear. It lies parallel to the line of latitude. That gives Kenya the larger share of the maritime area and it has already sold mining licenses to international companies. But Somalia disagrees.

The Somalis want the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border. In 2009, both countries agreed that the United Nations commission in charge of mediating border disputes should determine the border line once and for all. They also agreed that they should continue to work together to find a solution so that the matter would not have to go to court.

SOVEREIGN RIGHTS

That does not seem to have worked — at least from the Somali perspective. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The court represents one way of solving border conflicts in maritime areas if bilateral or regional attempts fail.

The Somali government wrote in its lawsuit that that was exactly what had happened. "The parties met numerous times to discuss how the dispute can be settled. But no progress was made in any of the meetings," the government said.

Somalia has long been considered a failed state without a functioning government. It has only had an elected president again since 2012 and now seems anxious to safeguard what it regards as its sovereign rights in the Indian Ocean.

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.

Additional reporting by Beatrice Kangai.