Kenya’s maritime row with Somalia fueled by ‘business interests’

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Kenya and Somalia’s maritime boundary case is an unfortunate dispute fuelled by “commercial interests” which could break down security cooperation, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma has said.

In London on Thursday, Juma said foreign entities interested in oil and natural gas are taking advantage of Somalia’s weaknesses, a circumstance she warned could force the region of focus in the fight against terror and sea piracy.

Kenya has had troops in Somalia since October 2011 and is now part of the African Union Mission in Somalia that is fighting terror group Al-Shabaab.

Last week, it was elected chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, an ad hoc group of countries sanctioned by the UN Security Council in cooperating against piracy.


But Somalia and Kenya, which belong to the group, are also fighting over maritime boundary.

The top Kenyan diplomat told a gathering of defense policy experts that the dispute, now the subject of a case at the International Court of Justice, has been influenced by foreign commercial bodies she didn’t name.

“This issue, we believe, is the surest demonstration of the effects of commercial interests in the context of a fragile country,” Dr Juma said during a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

“We have been witness to an unprecedented provocation including an attempt by a commercial entity engaging in an activity that amounts to redrawing international maritime boundaries. While we have remained restrained in our reaction, we have firmly demanded the retracting of those maps by Somalia and explanation of their intention.”

She added, “The bottom line is this: we will deploy all necessary measures to adhere to our sworn constitutional imperative and duty to protect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the republic: we will cede, not an inch of our territory.”


Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ, demanding to redraw the current sea boundary so that it runs diagonal, extending from the land border, as opposed to eastwards south of Kiunga.

The hearing is set for September 9, according to a schedule released early this week by the ICJ.

The problem though, Nairobi argues, is that some entities have been prospecting oil and gas in the very area contested by both sides.

Two weeks ago, Kenya protested to Norway after one of its firm, DNO, used contested maps to determine the oil stock.

Another Norwegian consulting firm, Spectrum Geo, caused a stir after Mogadishu used its data from the area to market its oil stock to investors.

Despite the protests, both Mogadishu and Spectrum deny trespassing.