US think tank says Somalia misplayed its hand in maritime row

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A Washington think tank with influence inside the Trump administration is siding with Kenya in its maritime territorial row with Somalia.

In a blog post on Thursday, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) said Somalia’s government had “misplayed its hand” by deciding to auction oil and gas exploration blocks in Indian Ocean waters also claimed by Kenya.

“The move by Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed alias Farmajo, damages Somalia’s “already-atrocious reputation for business climate,” wrote AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin.

“Nor does Somalia’s actions make sense while still dependent upon Amisom — and Kenya’s contribution to it — for basic security,” Mr Rubin added.

“The Somalia government should know, that after decades of disaster, quick riches and short-term cash can come at a price too high to bear.”

AEI’s generally pro-business stance often finds favour with Republican members of the US Congress as well as with the White House.


President Farmajo has put his country in the position of seeming “to thumb its nose at the International Court of Justice process” that Somalia initiated in 2014, Mr Rubin said.

The Hague-based ICJ began considering Somalia’s claim on its maritime boundaries with Kenya after the breakdown of talks between the two countries concerning control of 100,000 square kilometres of sea bed.

“Farmajo may see oil as a means to rescue Somalia’s moribund economy, but production of oil absent capacity can actually make matters worse,” Mr Rubin observed. “Perhaps a wiser course would be to let the ICJ process continue until its end.”

Even after the ICJ eventually rules on the dispute, it will be uncertain that “Somalia has the ability to defend its waters and that Kenya will concede if the case goes against Nairobi,” the AEI post suggested.


Mr Rubin cited two other international rows over maritime boundaries that, he implied, offer support for Kenya’s position.

Turkey, he recounted, has asserted a claim in territorial waters off Cyprus based on Turkey’s recognition of a self-declared republic in the northern part of the Mediterranean island nation. No other country recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mr Rubin pointed out.

In 2011, Turkey warned international companies against operating in Cypriot waters, but the firms were not dissuaded from working with the recognised government of Cyprus, the blog post added.

The dispute has served to “tarnish Turkey’s reputation in international and diplomatic circles,” Mr Rubin found.

Lebanon likewise undermined its international standing by unsuccessfully attempting to sell exploration rights in an 860-square-kilometre zone that is the subject of a territorial dispute with Israel, the AEI scholar added.

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