By HASSAN YUUSUFWAAL
The Indian Ocean maritime boundary dispute between Somalia and Kenya has reached a new level of intensity. While Somalia is holding out an olive branch to de-escalate the spat Kenya has actually added fuel to the fire.
On February, 17 2019, Kenya expelled Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya and recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu. On May 21 2019 Kenya detained and confiscated the passports of Somali ministers and MPs who were entering in Kenya. On May 29, 2019 Kenya banned cargo goods from Somalia and ordered all the planes from Somalia to be diverted to Wajir county airport for security checks.
The motive behind Kenya’s unfortunate actions is to pressure Somalia to abandon a case submitted to International Court of Justice by Somalia. In 2014 Somalia took the matter to ICJ to settle maritime dispute between her and its neighbour after several attempts of alternative dispute resolution had failed.
According to an article published by Reuters Kenya has already granted hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation rights to many companies including Tullow, Erin Energy, FAR and Dominion in the Indian Ocean disputed area. Kenya knows what she did is illegal and that ICJ will highly likely rule in favour of Somalia. Therefore Kenya is desperately trying that Somalia withdraws its case at the ICJ.
Kenya’s maximum pressure strategy has so far failed as Somalia is not giving in to the pressure. Kenya has still some weapons at its disposal to hit hard Somalia at least in the short term including a closure of Dadaab refugee camp and a kick out of Somali investors- a risky scenario though that could backfire. Kenya benefits massively from both the largest refugee camp in the world and the investment of Somali business community. So what is Kenya’s next move ahead of ICJ ruling scheduled for September 2019?
As some surveys carried out suggest there are deposits of oil and gas in the maritime disputed area between Somalia and Kenya. Hence Kenya had long planned since the early 2000s to invade and capture the strategic port city of Kismayo-the capital city of Jubaland state of Somalia. In January 2010 According to Wikileaks Kenya’s former Foreign Minister, Moses Wetangula requested the USA government to help Kenya to invade in Somalia in order to create Jubaland state. Washington however was not enthusiastic about the idea and refused Kenya’s request to invade in Somalia.
In October 2011, according to Kenya, they invaded into Somalia to create a buffer zone to protect its territory from Al-shabaab. But the main objective of Kenya’s invasion in Jubaland was a military strategy of control and influence and the creation of a quasi independent state- a political entity that undermines Villa Somalia. Kenya helped the former Al-shabaab ally leader Ahmed Madobe to become the president of Jubaland state.
Kenya defied UN Security Council Resolution 1725 of 2006 that endorses the specification in the IGAD Deployment Plan that those States that border Somalia would not deploy troops to Somalia (although later they became part of African Union Mission). Moreover, the then president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government Sheikh Sharif Ahmed described the Kenya’s invasion as illegal.
Kenya will fight its corner to stay in Jubaland. Kenya is spending millions of dollars and military force if necessary to influence the upcoming Jubaland state election in August. Peter Kagwanja -former Kenyan government adviser and currently Chief Executive of Africa Policy institute (Kenya) wrote recently in The Daily Nation “The Kenya-Somalia diplomatic meltdown over a disputed maritime border in the Indian Ocean and unfolding geopolitical alignments ahead of the coming state presidential election in Jubaland in Southern Somalia in August 2019 are unveiling the ugly contours of a new policy of containment of Kenya’s power and influence by an emerging regional alliance in the Horn of Africa. Kenya and its rivals will meet their Waterloo in the Jubaland election in August”.
It is mind-boggling! When did Jubaland become a Kenyan territory? 56 years on Somalis still feel the painful injustice of giving part of their country known as NFD (Northern Frontier District) to Kenya by the colonial British. And ironically in 21st century Kenya has the audacity to annex part of Somalia.
Kenya’s presence in Somalia is detrimental to the sovereignty and the unity of Somalia. Kenyan troops in Somalia are barely stationed in two places i.e. the port and the airport of Kismayo. The Al-Shabaab militants control much of the Jubaland including the outskirts of Kismayo. Kenyan troops are not there to defeat Al-Shabaab. They are there to defend Kenyan’s controversial interest of Somalia’s territorial waters. Several sources prove that Kenyan troops have been involved in illegal trade of charcoal- a very important income for Al-Shabaab.
Additionally , Kenya meddles in domestic political issues of Somalia. Therefore it is time to end the relentless aggression of Kenya against Somalia. The government of Somalia should take drastic steps to firstly remove Kenyan troops from Somalia.
Hassan Yuusufwaal is an activist, freelance writer and documentary maker based in UK.