US think tank sides with Kenya in Somalia maritime border row

Friday March 8 2019

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute is about 100,000km2 forming a triangle east of the Kenya coast. FILE GRAPHIC | NMG 

KEVIN J KELLEY
By KEVIN J KELLEY
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A Washington think-tank with influence inside the Trump administration is siding with Kenya in its maritime border dispute with Somalia.

In a statement on Thursday, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) said the Somalia government had “misplayed its hand” by auctioning oil and gas exploration blocks in Indian Ocean waters, also claimed by Kenya.

AEI said the move by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo dents Somalia's reputation as an investment destination.

“The sale while there is legal lack of clarity over the disputed sea shelf undermines Mogadishu’s already atrocious reputation for business climate. Nor does Somalia’s actions make sense while still dependent upon Amisom —and Kenya’s contribution to it— for basic security,” wrote AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin in a blog post.

“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.

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ICJ case

President Farmajo has put his country in the position of seeming “to thumb its nose at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) process” that Somalia initiated in 2014, following breakdown of talks between the two countries concerning the control of 100,000 square kilometres of sea bed.

“Mr 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 noted. “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 is uncertain that “Somalia has the ability to defend its waters and that Kenya will concede if the case goes against Nairobi,” the think-tank suggested.

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