Kenya: Risks of losing Somali's territorial waters in the Indian Ocean

Nairobi (HAN) September 25, 2014 – Maritime defense and national security news.  Kenyan Nation reported an Opinion article by ISAAC ONGIRI. Kenya risks losing almost all of its territorial waters in the Indian Ocean if a case filed by Somalia in an international court succeeds.

Alarmed by the grave implications of the move by its war-torn neighbour, the Jubilee Government has reopened negotiations with Somalia over its claim to a huge swathe of maritime territory considered rich in oil deposits and fish, which the ministry of Foreign Affairs says could effectively turn Kenya into a landlocked country.

On Saturday, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade Amina Mohammed told the Sunday Nation the matter is so sensitive that a quick meeting to facilitate direct talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somalia counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been arranged in New York.

“We are in discussions with the government of Somalia. It is unfortunate they logged their complaints even as we dialogued over this matter,” Ms Mohammed said, adding that Kenya preferred to settle the matter out of court.

Documents seen by the Sunday Nation show that the way Somalia wants the boundaries redrawn would take away at least five oil blocks and vast oceanic territory where deep sea fishing is conducted.

It would also mean that Kenya might have to access the Indian Ocean only with Somalia’s permission.

In June, an Australian firm prospecting off Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast reported a verified oil find at one of its recently completed wells in the Lamu Basin.

Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL confirmed their completed Sunbird well has intersected an oil column, making it the first-ever discovery of oil off the East African coast.

The dispute could also unsettle regional harmony as the proposal by Somalia could automatically move the Tanzanian island of Pemba to Kenyan territory, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.

“This claim by Somalia could make Kenya a landlocked country which may restrict our access to the high seas. And if the alterations adopt the proposal by Somalia then the island of Pemba will become part of Kenya,” said Dr Kibicho.

If the case filed by Somalia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is determined in its favour Somalia’s maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean would stretch all the way to Tanzania’s shores.


Based in the Dutch city of The Hague, ICJ is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations that mostly determines legal disputes between states.

In its application to the ICJ, the Somali government is making reference to a number of oil fields in the disputed area which Kenya has laid claim to, signalling that the battle may have been precipitated by economic interests.

Ms Mohammed, an experienced diplomat with vast experience in the UN system, said Kenya was keen on preserving good relations with Somalia and is making every effort to find a solution to the impending crisis that could create tension in the region.

She said the New York meeting between President Kenyatta and President Mohamud on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly later this month was part of the diplomatic push to sort out the problem.

Her views were reinforced by PS Kibicho: “We have set technical teams who are negotiating. Somalia is considered a friendly state — it is our neighbour, and it will remain so.”

The Sunday Nation has also learnt that even as the diplomatic efforts continued Attorney-General Githu Muigai had scheduled an appointment with the ICJ president to discuss ways of handling the crisis.

“I recently appeared before the Law of the Sea Commission in New York to try to attend to this matter. But we were referred to the ICJ because the case had been filed (by Somalia),” Prof Muigai said.

The AG explained that his office was assembling a team of experts to support Kenya’s case.

“We have already submitted an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) to the UN secretary-general showing the delimitation of our boundaries with Tanzania. We want the same formula adopted in our case with Somalia,” the AG stated.


Somalia rushed to court over what sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed was the casual nature in which the Kenyan government was handling the long-standing matter.

Somalia was apparently angered by Kenya’s decision to skip without notice a negotiation meeting that was to be held between August 25 and 26 this year.

“The Kenyan delegation, without providing either advance notification or subsequent explanation, failed to arrive and, as a consequence, the additional round of meetings that Kenya had requested were not held,” reads part of the application Somalia filed in court.

The Registrar of the ICJ Philippe Couvreur wrote to Kenya on August 28 detailing the case filed by Somalia.

“I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that the Federal Republic of Somalia has today filed in the Registry of the Court an Application, instituting proceedings against the Republic of Kenya concerning a dispute in relation to the establishment of the single maritime boundary between Somalia and Kenya in the India Ocean, delimiting the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf including the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M),” reads the letter.

Kenya’s ambassador to The Netherlands, Ms Makena Muchiri, forwarded the letter to Ms Mohammed the following day.


“Kindly note that the provision of Article 40 of the Rules of the Court that requires Kenya to inform the court of their appointed agent and the address of service at the seat of the court to which all communications can be sent,” Ms Muchiri wrote.

President Mohamud appointed his minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion Dr Abdirahman Dualeh the country’s agent in the case.

In the application, Dr Dualeh made it clear there were “no special or relevant circumstances that could justify Kenya’s claim” to the territory it occupied.

According to the technical descriptions used in documents, in previous negotiations with Somalia, Kenya insisted that the maritime boundary should run due east along the parallel of latitude from the land boundary terminus while Somalia said the boundary should be drawn to follow an azimuth (angle) of approximately N131.5 degrees east from the land boundary terminus out to the outer limit of the two states’ maritime entitlements.

A source at the Foreign ministry, who did not want to be named, explained this meant Kenya preferred the horizontal line from the land through the sea while Somalia wanted a diagonal dissection that would give it most of the territory.

“The parties have met on numerous occasions to exchange views on the settlement of the dispute over the delimitation of their maritime boundary. None of these negotiation sessions has yielded agreement. Indeed no meaningful progress towards an agreement has been achieved at any of them,” reads part of the application by Somalia.

On oil exploration, Somalia claimed that Kenya had acted unilaterally on the basis of the current boundary to exploit both living and non-living resources on the Somali side.

However, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS denied that oil exploration in the disputed area may have sparked off the controversies.

However, Somalia claims in court papers: “Relevant Kenyan petroleum blocs include L-5, L-21, L-22, L-23,L24 and L-25.According to publicly available information Kenya awarded block L-5 to an American company.”

The country also lays claim to oil blocks Kenya awarded to a French company.

“The blocks lie entirely or predominantly on the Somali side of provisional equidistance line,” read part of the court filings.

Sources in the Foreign ministry in Nairobi allege some Western and Gulf oil investors may have convinced the Somali Parliament and top politicians to claim the territory.

Even more intriguing are allegations that some senior Kenyan officials may be colluding with the Somalis by providing them with insider information that strengthens the ICJ case and any diplomatic negotiations.

Any loss of territorial waters could also compromise security as it would restrict Kenya Navy patrols.


Photo: Both leaders of kenya and Somalia, Uhuru and Hassan, Somalia took its maritime border dispute with Kenya to the United Nations’ top court


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14 Responses to “Kenya: Risks of losing Somali's territorial waters in the Indian Ocean”

  1. axmed

    What is Kenya but a political real state inhabited by different people with different languages and cultures who absent of security apparatus would murder each other like in no other place. Kenya as a fabricated name that does not mean a lot to the Masai, kalinjin,luo.kipsigi,somali etc.But Somali is a country of Somali people and Somalia for Somali people is their culture, their language ,their history of love, warfare,and when Ethiopia invaded it created ALshabaab who drove the invading forces out force,this a campaign supported by Somalis from kenya, Ethiopia, djibouti, Somaliland, punt land juba land from all over Somali peninsula. Kenya by claiming an inch of Somali waters either by corrupting the president who does not have the legal authority to enter into negotiation about an inch of SOMALteritorial waters or land. If kenya thinks it get away with it think again for it may spawn a different kind of Shabaab that no body wants.

  2. falamangaa

    That’s a silly post Axmed. Kenya has signed contracts on its part of the Ocean. If you look at all the sea territories of all Countries on the East Coast of Africa, the face due East Horizontally.

    Somalia can go to any court, the fact is you will lose this case badly. Somalis are stupid instead of researching before starting silly cases, you frankly don’t know what you are doing like a blind punk.

    About Culture you currently have a million plus Somalis in Kenya learning Swahili, and Kenyan mannerisms, Kenyan Culture, who’s smarter now? We are gradually Colonizing you stupid punks.
    Instead of writing idiotic posts why not first start by claiming your suffering refugees children and women, currently living and surviving in Kenya due to Kenya’s gratitude.?

    Who cares about Gallas? You guys have no culture now. Those little punks of your smoking weed and turning into Gangsters, or welfare cheats in US, Canada and Australia aren’t what you are talking about right?

    1. The Somali you have a long way to go. You never understand yourselves. Talk of coulture and organization and have failed to agree in principles to have a Government for over twenty years. Why are you killing yourselves?. There is alot in the current water despute and more than the brain of such a man like you to comment. Somalis have a common character: indeciseveness,poor judgement, stupid anger and ignorance

    2. abdifitah mohamud

      man you have every right to say that cause i put my self in that spot,just the one you described. am Somali and i will be sure remembering your comment that for the rest of my life…and frankly i don’t get why this youth get pissed when someone like you says things like that to their country. the problem is not u man its us. and some people my use the excuse of “the Somalia of yesterday”, we use to be like this we were like that. well fuck it look where we are now, but we are not planning on staying like this, when we do came out the situations like we are in today people like you will be refugees in my country begging for citizenship and its not something thats entirely new it happens “tables change”.keep that in mind. well you may think somalis are “indecisiveness,poor judgement, stupid anger and ignorance”, well they are, but just for now, so i suggest you choose your words very carefully next time…… like i said “tables change”

    3. Abdishakur

      Falamangaa I totally disagree; the Somalian people who live in Kenya contribute a lot to the economy of Kenya. Without the Somalians Kenya would have suffered as we opened our businesses in Kenya and built very astonishing homes, which increased tourism. Without us Kenya would of been floating in poverty, asking for aid and its economy would of been in a large deficient. So, instead of aiming horrid insults at Somalia be grateful that us Somalian craved a path of success for Kenya to follow.

  3. ahmed

    Falamangaa, if the territory in question belongs to kenya then why are they begging the somali government not to go to court. BTW Amina mohamed(foreign affairs minister) is somali and is most likely supporting the somali side. goodluck

    1. falamangaa

      Nobody is begging Somalis not to go to Court. When you have a dispute you have 2 possible ways to solve it : talking about it one on one , or going to court.
      Your comment makes no sense. Amina is Kenya. If you are relying on her to save your ass, then i’m sorry.

  4. Hassan mahamud

    Am sure more cries will be heard inside nairobi and the rest parts of this nonsense so called country kenya very soon if ur dont stop ur bad thoughts towards our country(somalia)
    did you know WAGALA massacre?? where u have shaded bloods of many innocent somalis!! This seems like we are not going to revenge from what you have done to us? truly we have revenged see what has happened to wate gate?? look at coast lines of kenya parts and the houses bunt down by somalia Alshabaab men whom we have heartly support when it comes to violating our enemies kenyans!! we know u and we will take a hot step against u with Large noises warthog!!

  5. Siyad

    Kenyans think they can bribe Somalis for false smile for taking portion of Somalia. I remember Kenyata airport practices by some Airport workers to the Somalis from Somalia. they basically bundle all Somali Passengers into one of the Airport halls asking $20 or be vaccinated. I want to remind Kenyans including their leaders that Somalis never accept Honga -Bribe for inch of their land. if they would Barbera would have been british town by now. All your wealth put together will not fetch a mm sqr of Somalia be it greater Somalia from Raskamboni to Ras casayr or Jbouti or Ogaden in Ethiopia or NFD in Kenya.

  6. axmed

    Hassan : Alshabaab are terrorist cult who should be eliminated. FATALANGA .I know from etymology of your name you are not even a kenyan. You took the name to get a GREENCARD. If you post anything again I will turn you in to the authorities .

    1. falamangaa

      Punk. Empty threats. You can’t argue logically, and like your countrymen, coming up with silly reasons as arguments against Kenyans, on their land. You can go to Court. One thing please do your research and see how the lines of the rest of Countries on the Southern African continent face.
      Somali has empty threats. You should thank Kenyans a million times for saving your people otherwise you would have starved to death, or already killed yourselves fighting like idiots.

  7. kabaka mutesa

    Somalis cant even manage something similar to a state and now believe they are more cultured than kenyans, this is really dung, and kenyans; how will they negotiate with pirates and shabaab terrorists who can not agree on anything for >20 years?
    Which court can award terrorists more indian ocean? maybe al qaeda or isis courst


      Somalia belongs to somali pple , and kenyans we will give u the lesson that we gave ethiopians in 1977, we wil cupture NFD that place belongs somalian pple , if we need to cupture all kenya it can take to us with afew weeks, keep it ur mind u foolish kenyans No one try to negotiate somali teritorial water , and it wil be always the decision that we sent to the United nations in 1972 about the terotorial water , u foolish kenyans u wil be our slaves in the next 10 years , and we wil cupture agaian and again our past border NFD , it wil remain NFD in our hands ,we wil use political if it doesnt work we wil use power , and we wil remain agaian the most powerful nation all East african Countries, u foolish kenyans we know u how easy u are , u saw already one film and that was- westgate mall – what do u think if our soldiers attacks the kenyans, keep it ur mind even NFD is part of Somalia

  8. Kenya is weak british colony. Kenya is full of Aids and HIV. Most people live below the poverty line.
    Kenyans whore women breed like rabbits and wants lebenraum, like the Nazis. Well come on naziz this is the eastern front.

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