The Four Factors Behind Kenya-Somalia Maritime Border Row

somalia kenya border
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Nairobi (HAN) November 3,2015. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security. BY STEPHEN OPANA. Last week, Kenyan authorities submitted data evidence to the UN on the ongoing
Kenya-Somali border row. This follows an earlier suit filed by the Somali
government at the Hague-based International Court of Justice concerning the maritime boundary dispute.

What started as simple matter has degenerated over time into a complex problem, finding its way into the corridors
of international courts. Two neighbours with a lot in common are embroiled
in a crisis they couldn’t sit down and resolve. One is left to
wonder why, within a short time, good friends and neighbours have turned into foes.

These
strange developments have exposed deep-rooted suspicion and mistrust that have
been brewing for the last few years between the Mogadishu and Nairobi
government. Somalia has greatly benefited from Kenya’s generosity, good
neighbourliness and friendship.

The relative peace prevailing in Somalia today
is due to Kenya’s tireless and unrelenting efforts. Knowing very well that
terrorism threat is not only a Somali problem and that a peaceful and stable
Somalia is key to its stability and growth, Kenya had no option but to rally
other nations to bring lasting peace. The fruits are there for all
to see.

Apart from sharing a border, the two countries share the Somali
ethnic group, whose language is Somali. Kenya has
hosted thousands of Somali refugees for decades in Ifo and
Dadaab

— Africa’s largest refugee camp

— both in Garissa county. These
refugees arrived here due to persistent violence, war, drought and famine. Some
just came to seek social services absent in their home
country, like education and medical care. Kenya, on the other hand, has benefited
from export of miraa to Somalia by Kenyan miraa farmers.

So what
might be the possible causes of this deep mistrust, despite a show of friendship
and mutual respect whenever the two Presidents meet?
First, could Kenya have erred by involving itself in Jubaland State politics
immediately after the liberation of Kismayu from al Shabaab? The Mogadishu government
had earlier accused Kenyan authorities of meddling in the politics and supporting Gen Ahmed Islam, popularly known as Gen Madobe, who led a
different faction that fought alongside KDF in the liberation of Kismayu. The
Mogadishu government said they had the final say on who was going to be the
Jubaland President and not “outsiders”. In fact, the relationship got sour to
the level that the Somali government demanded the immediate withdrawal of KDF
from Kismayu and its place be taken over by a neutral force.
Secondly, the shocking revelation by the UN Monitoring for Somalia and Eritrea
that Kenya’s troops in Somalia are deeply involved in the illegal charcoal
trade banned by the UN in 2012 may have complicated the already
deteriorating relations. This report was
released last year and prepared for the UN Security Council.

The Kenyan government vehemently denied by
allegations. However, it did not
go well with the Somali government since the report had laid it bare that the
Kenyan government had hidden economic interests. Failure by the Kenyan
government to work with UN authorities in investigating these
allegations worsened the situation. Until now I do not know whether a
comprehensive investigation has been carried out and the troops
involved brought to book.
Thirdly, the earlier decision by the Jubilee government to repatriate all the
Somali refugees living in Dadaab and Ifo camps and subsequently close these
camps could have angered the Somali government. The government alleged that the
camps harbour terrorists and are therefore used to plan and launch attacks in
Kenyan towns. This was after the Mandera and Garissa University terrorist
attacks.The international community and
the Somali government suggested that the refugees be
left to voluntarily return to their country. The UN refugee agency boss
visited the country mid-this year over the matter, and it was agreed that the agency and the two governments work
together on refugee relocation.
Lastly, Somalia has protested on several occasions against the ongoing
construction of a boundary wall on the 860km border by the Kenyan
government to act as a barrier
to terrorists. The Mogadishu government
has complained of not being consulted and involved in this mega project
yet it is going to hurt its people. Why didn’t the Kenyan
government consult its neighbour so that the contentious issues are ironed
out before embarking on  the project? More consultation should be carried
out to clear the matter, otherwise
the differences may reach their peak.

Whatever the ruling on the maritime boundary dispute, the two countries will
still have deep mistrust. Something has to be done. The two governments cannot
just assume they are enjoying cordial and mutual relations and that things
are going on smoothly. The differences have the potential of escalating into a
full-blown war if not checked.

The writer works with Windle Trust Kenya, which implements education in refugee camps in Kenya on behalf of UNHCR.
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1 COMMENT

  1. I think this article is deeply biased and based on anecdotal and whimsical perceptions , as seen from a Kisumu bench. Somalia has not benefited from Kenya in anyway. Infact the civil strife and mass migration from Somalia to Kenya led to amassment of wealth by Kenya’s real estate , for instance the muddy slums of Eastleigh are now a major business district with high rise buildings thanks to capital investment from Somali refugees and migrants,
    Similarly, the exodus of Somalis to neighbouring Kenya led to increased income for Kenyan property owners from rent of millions of Somalis in transit to Europe and America, with some staying permanently. These migration established sustainable employment for the unskilled youth of Nairobi’s world famous slums like Kibera, Umoja, and even Majengo; most of the youth working as househelp for the resilient Somali refugees to Kenya.
    Most infamous benefits for Kenya, however, is the elevation of corrupt Kenyan police benefiting from TKK (Leta Kibanda ama Toa Kitu Kidogo) – a bribe scheme that has targeted Somali migrants and refugees living in Nairobi’s Eastleigh and Pangani area – from impoverished citizens to affluent Kenyan citizens. The once dilapidated Pangani police station is now a coveted post of choice for transfer among Kenyan policemen who understand than millions could be made every night from arresting undocumented Somali visitors; evidence of this illicit money flows can be seen in the quality private Police estates that have sprung from where the ramshackled housing of police families used to be.
    Mr. Opana let me advise you , honestly you don’t know the maritime dispute between the 2 nations even to a fair degree. Kenyans are just scapegoats pursuing a non-African agenda that will not benefit Kenyans or any African for that matter, focus your research on the years 2004 and 2005, and find out the entities that motivated Kenya to revise and expand its maritime territory based on new developments in offshore finds of gas in the East African littoral.
    The Kenyan approach is cowardly, opportunistic, and illegal considering that Kenya decides to rob or rather negotiate territory expansion with the support of the international community at a time when the Somali nation and government are vulnerable. Infact, the internationally motivated Kenyan campaign started at a time when Somalis were at war and interim ragtag collectible called the TFG Somalia was in charge.
    Review your findings and for once be an advocate for African independence, advise your readers to legitimize the African court instead of going to the UN or the ICC for that matter. Research before you write is my recommendation.

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