The East African Energy Forum (EAEF), a Somali lobby group, has today condemned the Kenyan government of what it is calling “the slow elaborate annexation of Somali offshore territory.”
Kenya has spent much of the past decade drumming up a non-existent offshore border dispute in the hopes of capturing approximately 120,000 square kilometers of what is thought to be resource rich southern Somali waters.
In 2012, EAEF shed light on and challenged the attempt by Kenya to lease oil blocks in Somali waters to foreign companies from France, Italy, Norway and the US.
EAEF’s lobbying efforts with the US State Department and the Norwegian Government in part resulted in the removal of the American firm, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Norway’s state-run Statoil from those Somali oil blocks. The group however, admits that French and Italian oil giants Total and ENI have not halted their activities in the matter and continue their attempts to violate Somali sovereignty.
Kenya’s Joint Management Zone
After the 2012 failure to annex southern Somali waters, Kenya worked tirelessly to establish an interim joint petroleum development zone in the Kenyan-Somali offshore border region. The plan would have seen Kenya along with foreign oil companies drilling and producing oil and gas in Somali waters and promising to share the revenues with the Somali government.
Although the notion that such an agreement would be interim and without prejudice to a final delimitation, the lengthy nature of the petroleum industry requires such an agreement be very long term, approximately 40 to 50 years, with maritime boundaries being agreed upon during or at the end of the period after Somalia has shared all potential oil in that area with Kenya.
“It is strange that Kenya thinks Somalis would accept the exploitation of our resources by a foreign country and then hope it compensates us with part of the revenues. That proposal indicates their desperation in taking advantage of a currently embattled Somali state. Their destabilization efforts in this matter are unacceptable to all Somalis.” said the group’s director Abdillahi Mohamud.
Kenya’s push for a joint development zone is a testament of its weak legal case against Somalia at the UN and International Court of Justice (ICJ). This is contrary to propaganda claims in recent articles which Kenya’s newspapers attempt to rally and persuade the public to their government’s cause. EAEF’s sources in the Kenyan government confirm that these articles were pre-written by senior Kenyan government officials involved in the issue.
Kenya’s claim that it would be enclosed and landlocked by Somalia and Tanzania is pure misinformation for domestic consumption. An EEZ is international waters which any ship may navigate unhindered. Furthermore, Kenya’s claims are in conflict with its own legislation. The Kenyan Maritime Zones Act of 1989 states that the Kenyan territorial sea boundary with Somalia is perpendicular to the coast and not parallel.
What Kenya is doing is equivalent to visiting an ailing neighbor in the hospital and then robbing his unattended home, with the grave mistake of assuming Somalia will never return to statehood.
The Breakdown of Talks
After several unproductive sessions and a failure to attend a session without explanation on the Kenyan side, Somalia broke off talks and launched the court case at the ICJ. Kenya was taken by surprise by the recent breakdown in talks. The Kenyatta administration has few friends abroad and the hydrocarbon potential of Somalia along with its strong legal case has persuaded oil and gas commercial interests to back the Somali side. This shift in international support towards Somalia has thrown the Kenyans into a state of confusion and panic.
Norway, which has ceded to continuous EAEF pressure to back away from the Kenyan side, has clearly shifted support towards Somalia. This is demonstrated by their technical assistance to Somalia in recent offshore territorial submissions to the UN and frequent visits of senior Somali officials to Oslo. Norway’s current financial contributions to the Somali side number into the millions of dollars.
Although Kenya has a relatively weak legal case, it has been working on this boundary issue since early 2005. It has the support and backing of the Commonwealth Office in preparing its case. The EAEF is currently engaged in lobbying that office to cease its support of a hostile Kenyan side. However, Kenya has some support mainly from the French and the British and as such EAEF will continue its work in the next 2 years weakening the Kenyan ability to perform at the ICJ court case.
“Somalis in the country and around the world should follow and take notice of this case with patriotism and fervor; this is a direct attack on our sovereignty that will not be taken lightly. The Kenyan government rendered us incapable of protecting our nation’s assets and is now finding out the effect of swift Somali mobilization.” said Abdillahi Mohamud.
The group is calling this case one of supreme national importance to Somalis everywhere and the protection of a core geopolitical imperative, our territorial integrity. The Somali government should make full use of the international support it now has to decisively end this boundary dispute.