On October 12, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in a maritime boundary dispute between Kenya and Somalia, ruled to place part of the Indian Ocean under Somalia’s jurisdiction.
In the evening, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a statement on the ruling of the International Court of Justice, saying that Kenya strongly opposed and rejected the ruling. At the same time, he criticized the ruling of the International Court of Justice for its bias, unfairness and violation of Kenya’s sovereignty. .
Somali President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed said on social platforms: “I thank God for allowing Somalis to achieve results in the long-term struggle to prevent Kenya’s claim to own part of the Somali Sea.”
Somalia used the International Court of Justice to fight Kenya. The “Between the Air”, not only internationalized the sovereignty contradiction between the two countries, but also opened up the two countries’ grievances and feuds that have been poisoned by Western colonialism for many years. In 2014, Somalia brought its maritime dispute with Kenya to the International Court of Justice, and conflicts such as the sovereignty dispute between the two countries have become increasingly acute.
Kenya claims that its northern maritime border is parallel to the latitude, but Somalia invokes international law of the sea to believe that this border should continue to extend along the land border of the two countries. This divergent claim of sovereignty has caused the two countries to have a triangular disputed area of more than 100,000 square kilometers on the coast of the Indian Ocean and Africa.
For Kenya, the judgment of the International Court of Justice will not only damage its rights and interests in access to international waters, but also the area of its exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf outside the exclusive economic zone will be reduced accordingly. In the early years, this disputed sea area has already been explored for rich oil and natural gas resources on the seabed. Therefore, this dispute is also a struggle for the rights and interests of resource development.
In March 2012, Kenya discovered oil in related waters disputed with Somalia, and subsequently issued exploration licenses to multinational companies.
At that time, Kenya had 46 exploration blocks, and Kenya divided them into 20 offshore oil blocks. At that time, among the seven blocks that Kenya granted exploration rights to multinational companies, four were located in disputed waters between Kenya and Somalia. In response to Kenya’s authorized multinational companies’ exploration of the disputed waters, the Somali government has repeatedly condemned Kenya’s “illegal actions” and filed a complaint with the United Nations.
Offshore drilling platform
The Arab League in which Somalia is located has also intervened in the maritime dispute between the two countries.
In recent years, the situation in Somalia has gradually eased, and the country has also ushered in a period of development opportunities. As Somalia has a coastline of more than 3,000 kilometers and rich marine resources, many multinational oil companies have long coveted the exploration and exploitation of Somalia’s offshore oil resources.
In February 2019, the Somali government held an oil exploration exhibition in London to actively attract multinational oil companies to conduct oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters of the two countries. Somalia’s move caused strong dissatisfaction in Kenya. Kenya not only strongly condemned Somalia for infringing on its sovereignty, but also recalled its ambassador to Somalia and requested the Somali ambassador to leave Kenya in protest.
At the time, Kenyan Foreign Minister Juma expressed his willingness to resolve maritime disputes with Somalia peacefully and legally, but he also emphasized that Kenya “will not cede an inch of territory.”
The disputed sea area of Kensal is rich in oil and gas resources. If divided according to Somalia’s intentions, Kenya can only retain a small area of the Indian Ocean and lose at least 7 oil blocks. Considering oil and gas exploration and future interests, the border dispute between the two countries is extraordinary. In fact, the two countries signed a boundary memorandum of understanding in 2009. The two sides agreed to divide the maritime areas under the jurisdiction of the two countries along the latitude line, but the memorandum was rejected by the Somali parliament.
Pirates waiting for an opportunity?
Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, guards the throat of the Suez Canal, and has always been a military fortress and an important road for merchants. Its sea area is the main sea channel for international cargo ships to enter East Africa. Nearly 50,000 ships from various countries pass through the waters near Somalia every year. Ten years ago, the rampant pirates in Somalia was widely heard.
When piracy was at its peak in 2011, as many as 176 ships were attacked in the waters of Somalia. Therefore, Somali pirates are a common nightmare in the international maritime industry. With the support of the United Nations, countries along the Indian Ocean have carried out extensive cooperation in combating Somali piracy.
Kenya’s Dadab refugee camp is home to approximately 400,000 refugees, most of whom are Somalis
Cooperation includes information sharing and joint operations. Kenya established a coast guard in November 2018 with the intention of strengthening monitoring of vessel traffic. In 2019, the then Kenyan Defense Minister Omamo also served as the chairman of the United Nations Special Agency for Combating Piracy and Other Maritime Crimes.
Somalia and Kenya are the mother countries of pirates, and one of the most forefront and core forces in the fight against piracy. The deterioration of the relationship between the two countries will inevitably affect the effectiveness of the international community in combating Somali piracy.
According to the “East African”, the Arab League where Somalia is located is also involved in the maritime dispute between the two countries. The Arab League claimed that the disputed waters are also part of Arab waters and repeatedly condemned Kenya’s attempts to annex Somali territory. If the situation deteriorates in this way, the sea disputes in Kensaw are likely to lead to the splitting of multiple parties in the joint fight against pirates, giving Somali pirates a chance to become rampant again.
A tooth for a tooth, “apart” is still in contact
After Kenya invited Abdi, the leader of “Somaliland”, to visit Nairobi in December last year, Somalia condemned Kenya for interfering in its internal affairs and subsequently announced the severance of diplomatic relations with it.
In May of this year, under Qatar’s mediation, Somalia and Kenya finally resumed their diplomatic relations; the current judgment of the International Court of Justice on the disputed waters is bound to plant an untimely bomb on the relations between the two countries.
From fighting for seas to being ambiguous with the separation of Somalia, the “frozen” relationship between Kenya and Somalia is not a day’s cold. This is not only mixed with real interests, but also mixed with historical contradictions left over by Western colonists.
The Somali ethnic group is a typical cross-border ethnic group in Africa. In addition to Somalia, they are also distributed in Djibouti, the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and the northeastern province of Kenya. In 1960, British Somalia and Italian Somalia merged to form the Republic of Somalia, achieving independence before Kenya became independent.
The five-pointed star in the center of the national flag of Somalia, one of which symbolizes the northeastern region of Kenya. At that time, Somali politicians demanded that the British colonial authorities assign Kenya’s northern border area to Somalia, or allow people in the northern border area to decide their ownership through a referendum. Under the influence of Somali nationalism, Kenyan Somalis also actively support the establishment of a unified Somali state.
However, for its own benefit, in 1963, the British decided to transfer the northern border area to Kenya and changed its name to Northeast Province. Protests by Somalis spread out on a large scale immediately, and fierce clashes broke out between Somalis and the Kenyan government. Under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, the newly independent Kenyan government declared a state of emergency in the Northeast Province and started the so-called “Shifta War”.
The Shivta conflict lasted for 4 years. Under the attack of the Kenyan government and the mediation of a third party, the Shifta conflict finally weakened in the late 1960s. However, the guerrilla warfare of the local Somalis against the Kenyan government continued into the 1970s and 1980s.
In the face of the Separatist forces in Somalia, Kenya seems to be “communicating with courtesy.” Kenya began sending troops to Somalia in October 2011. When helping to combat the extremist organization “Somali Al-Shabaab”, some people accused it of wanting to establish a local government in southern Somalia, although Kenya denied this.
Since 2020, the controversy surrounding the parliamentary and presidential elections in Somalia has continued to ferment, and in September triggered a military confrontation between federal government forces and local armed forces in Jubaran. In November, after visiting Kenya, Madobe, the leader of the Jubaran region, publicly stated that unless the Federal Government of Somalia withdraws its troops, it will boycott parliamentary elections.
On October 13, 2021, the Somali Coast Guard patrols the maritime border
The five-pointed star in the center of the national flag of Somalia, one of which symbolizes the northeastern region of Kenya.
Somalia blamed this: Kenya has intervened in the conflict between the Somalia federal government and the local government and interfered with the Somalia election process.
“Hate each other” and “love each other” coexist
However, both Somalia and Kenya have been harassed by extremist organizations “Somali Al-Shabaab” and Somali pirates. The two sides have maintained a long-term cooperative understanding in combating piracy and Al-Shabaab. Kenya joined the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia as early as 2001 and helped Somalia regain Kismayo, the largest port in the south.
With Ken’s assistance, the situation in Jubaran, Somalia, adjacent to Kenya, has been stabilized. Kenya has also paid a heavy price for this, and has been repeatedly attacked by Al-Shabaab in retaliatory terrorist attacks. In 2009, when Somali pirates were almost rampant, Moses Weitangula, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya, called on all countries to combat Somali pirates not to focus solely on maritime military operations and help Somalia establish a stable government in order to eradicate piracy.
According to statistics, Somalis are the largest refugee group in Kenya. Since the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991, Kenya has accepted a large number of Somali refugees. At present, Kenya has accepted a total of about 600,000 registered refugees, of which 81% are from Somalia. Among them, about 400,000 people live in Dadaab in Garissa, the capital of Kenya’s northeastern province.
At the end of last year, after the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Alman, an African and Middle Eastern research expert, once commented: “The economies of Kenya and Somalia are interdependent, and the diplomatic dispute between the two countries may put the Somalis in Kenya in an embarrassing situation. In Kenya There are also thousands of Somali refugees, students and businessmen.”
Hassan, a teacher at the National University of Somalia, said in an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency: “The two countries are too dependent on each other and there is no need to sever diplomatic relations.” , Not long after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the two countries were faced with thorny maritime disputes. At the same time, the task of combating extremist organizations and pirates still has a long way to go. The future of the relationship between the two countries is a test of the wisdom of the leaders of the two countries.