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

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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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Politics

Supreme Court of Somalia to hear election-related cases

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Somali judicial officers at a past training
   

The Supreme Court of Somalia announced it will hear cases related to elections. Chief Justice Bashe Yusuf Ahmed said it would be illegal for the federal and state governments not to allow the courts to adjudicate over election cases.

“The Supreme Court is ready to hear any appeal that arises from an administrative decision made by the electoral commissions,” Bashe said.

Bashe was speaking at a judicial conference held in Mogadishu.

The Horn of Africa nation is preparing for parliamentary and peesidential elections in September and October respectively.

Somalia has no constitutional court but there is an electoral dispute resolution committee.

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Race for Villa Somalia

Former foreign minister joins race for Villa Somalia

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Former Foreign minister Fawzia Adam becomes the firs female candidate to announce her candidature for Somalia presidency. Fawzia, who became Somalia’s first and only woman foreign minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 2012, said she is joining the race for Villa Somalia to change the course of the country’s politics. More than 30 other candidates have expressed their interest for the top job. She leads the National Democratic Party.

“My sole aim is to breath a new lease of life into Somalia. Our political ideology and believes are at the heart and soul of our political trajectory in deciding the best way Forward for my nation,” Fawzia said.

“Our people are known for their dynamism, resilience and fruitful thinking when it comes to business. If they are encouraged, the country will surely get rapid development and investment,” she added.

She is running on an anti-corruption platform. Fawzia hails from Somaliland. The Horn of Africa nation will hold presidential elections on October 10.

As foreign minister, Fawzia was instrumental in Somalia’s quest to recover state properties that had been frozen by foreign administrations, institutions and firms after the collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991 in order to prevent unauthorized use,  and began a formal assessment and recovery process of Somali national assets, which include ships and planes that are believed to be held in Italy, Germany and Yemen.

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Politics

Farmajo congratulation Abiy Ahmed on his election victory

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President Farmajo (right) and Ethiopian Premier Abiy Aed at a past event
   

Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo has congratulated Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed whose party won the just-concluded elections in Ethiopia.

Somalia will continue to work with the government of Abiy Ahmed to further strengthen bilateral relations and benefit peoples of the two countries and the wider region, Farmajo said in a statement. 

“I warmly congratulate PM Abiy Ahmed on regaining a strong mandate from the people of Ethiopia,” Farmaajo said.

Abiy’s new Prosperity Party won 410 out of 436 seats, according to electoral body.

Ethiopia has thousands of troops in Somalia under Amisom, the African Union Mission in Somalia, fighting al Shabab group. Since assuming office in 2018, Abiy has been supportive of the Somali Federal Government unlike his predecessors who supported regional administrations against the government in Mogadishu.

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