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kenya and somalia in dispute over kismanyu (East Africa appears to have enough problems. Plagued by pirates riding the waves of the Indian Ocean, and bullied by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants that threaten the very foundation of Somalia, the region has been a constant focal point for insecurity. To be fair, the pirates are starting to let up. Moreover, the latest reports paint a picture of an al Shabaab on the decline – at least for now. However, a looming fight over oil and gas could threaten to undo any transition toward stability in the region, particularly when it comes to Somalia’s relationship with Kenya. Setting the Scene For Trouble The latest East African scandal began with a seemingly innocuous clarification by the Somali Government. Amid a weekly council of ministers gathering on 06 June 2013, officials decided to embark on the contentious topic of Somalia’s maritime borders. By meeting’s end, the ministers had agreed to make “null and void” the 2009 maritime borders Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Kenya and Somalia’s now-defunct Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Adding fuel to the fire, the Somali Government, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, officially ‘extended’ the country’s sea territory by 200 nautical miles, and also defined the continental shelf as part of its maritime boundary. To the outside observer, this move may seem like a trivial declaration. Indeed, Somalia and Kenya have been fighting over this very issue since 1972. However, when given the fact that those 200 extra nautical miles could lead Somalia to join the Indian Ocean hydrocarbon bonanza and simultaneously pit Nairobi and Mogadishu in a fight over potentially lucrative reserves, this announcement is far more consequential. Boundary Bickering So what, exactly, is the 2009 MOU? And better yet, why is Somalia keen on supposedly ‘expanding’ its maritime boundaries? Whilst the general theme of the MOU revolves around the issue of nation’s contested maritime borders, the exact details and ultimate outcome of the memorandum depends on which country you ask. For Kenya, the MOU had settled matters once and for all. Nairobi officials believe that the April 2009 agreement signed by then-Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, and his former Somali counterpart, Abdirahman Warsame, allowed Kenya – not Somalia – to officially demarcate its maritime borders to include the approximately 200 nautical miles off the coast of the Horn of Africa. More precisely, for Nairobi authorities, the MOU extended the Kenyan boundary east to approximately the 45° line of latitude. Naturally, Somali authorities offer a different view of the MOU signing. For them, the memorandum only amounted to Mogadishu giving the “O.K.” for Kenyan authorities to submit their version of the East African map. In other words, Somalia sees the MOU as simply an ‘agree to disagree’ document. In Somalia’s defence, this argument is not out of line, given that in order for a country to officially submit its boundary map to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, it must provide proof that it has “cooperated with its neighbours”. For Somalia, then, this document is only proof that it ried to ‘cooperate’. In the end, however, the Somali parliament rejected Kenya’s views on the Indian Ocean boundaries in August of 2009; and the East African neighbours have been squabbling over a body of water roughly 23,600 miles in area ever since. Joining the Hydrocarbon Bonanza For Somalia, the fight over the maritime demarcation goes far deeper than a quest for seaside riches. It is also a matter of pride. The view among many Somalis is that their country has been taken advantage of, not only by Kenya, but by international firms which they have accused of capitalising on their decades-long lack of central government for their own financial gain. When Kenya authorised another round of oil contracts in July 2012, this time to include the disputed Eni-controlled L21, L23, and L24 blocks, Somali authorities were quick to cry ‘imperialism’. In particular, an angered Abdillahi Mohamud, who manages the East African Energy Forum, claimed that these oil blocks, as well as the Total S.A-controlled L22, the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation-bought L5, and Statoil-run L26, were all sold off “illegally” by Kenyan authorities. Noted Mohamud: “These offshore oil blocks are solely owned by the Republic of Somalia as stipulated in the 1982 UN Common Law on the Sea (UNCLOS). Kenya’s move to sell these oil blocks violates international law”. Indeed, for a country which only recently managed to achieve a presidential election following decades of bloodshed, Kenya’s oil block sell-off was not exactly a morale-booster. Pride aside, the financial ramifications of the border demarcation is clearly of importance as well. Whilst the exact amount of hydrocarbon reserves in the 23,000 square miles of water remains unknown, some reports have estimated that, when combined with its reported onshore reserves, Somalia could have as much as 110 billion barrels of oil. With regard to offshore gas, in total the East African region is believed to have 440 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves. Clearly any ‘sleight of hand’ with regard to the Somali boundaries with Kenya could spell billions of dollars in lost revenue for the fledgling government in Mogadishu. The Way Ahead The never-ending maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya is, by now, well understood. Indeed, since 1972, the two countries have been lobbying the UN to see their side of the ‘Indian Ocean’ story. Reports of possible pirate political involvement aside, for the most part, this disagreement has only been a war of words. Going forward, it remains to be seen whether the two nations will engage in a full- scale violent confrontation over the hydrocarbon-rich sea. If such an event were to pass, however, Kenya is believed to have the upper hand. Nairobi has already secured enough powerful allies, including Norway, France and the US (all of which have stake in the Kenyan-authorised offshore oil blocks), that would conceivably make a Kenyan victory a ‘sure thing’ from the start. This is not to say, however, that the Somali Government will not try to change the Kenya- as-East African-powerhouse narrative. To be sure, in 2012, the Somalia Government went ahead and announced that it, too, would auction approximately “308 newly delineated oil blocks”, without seeking a cooperation agreement with Kenya. Of course Somalia does not want to anger its neighbour. In their weekly meeting on 06 June 2013, cautious ministers did state that, whilst they would seek to implement changes to their national territory, they are looking “forward” to working with Kenya, and “the government of President [Uhuru] Kenyatta Kenyatta”.

Home About the Company Corporate IntellFor many armchair analysts, East Africa appears
to have enough problems. Plagued by pirates
riding the waves of the Indian Ocean, and
bullied by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants
that threaten the very foundation of Somalia,
the region has been a constant focal point for
insecurity. To be fair, the pirates are starting
to let up. Moreover, the latest reports paint a
picture of an al Shabaab on the decline – at
least for now. However, a looming fight over oil
and gas could threaten to undo any transition
toward stability in the region, particularly when
it comes to Somalia’s relationship with Kenya.
Setting the Scene For Trouble
The latest East African scandal began with a
seemingly innocuous clarification by the Somali
Government. Amid a weekly council of ministers
gathering on 06 June 2013, officials decided to
embark on the contentious topic of Somalia’s
maritime borders. By meeting’s end, the
ministers had agreed to make “null and void”
the 2009 maritime borders Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) between Kenya and
Somalia’s now-defunct Transitional Federal
Government (TFG). Adding fuel to the fire, the
Somali Government, led by President Hassan
Sheikh Mohamud, officially ‘extended’ the
country’s sea territory by 200 nautical miles, and
also defined the continental shelf as part of its
maritime boundary.
To the outside observer, this move may seem
like a trivial declaration. Indeed, Somalia and
Kenya have been fighting over this very issue
since 1972. However, when given the fact that
those 200 extra nautical miles could lead Somalia
to join the Indian Ocean hydrocarbon bonanza
and simultaneously pit Nairobi and Mogadishu in
a fight over potentially lucrative reserves, this
announcement is far more consequential.
Boundary Bickering
So what, exactly, is the 2009 MOU? And better
yet, why is Somalia keen on supposedly
‘expanding’ its maritime boundaries? Whilst the
general theme of the MOU revolves around the
issue of nation’s contested maritime borders,
the exact details and ultimate outcome of the
memorandum depends on which country
you ask.
For Kenya, the MOU had settled matters once
and for all. Nairobi officials believe that the
April 2009 agreement signed by then-Kenyan
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, and
his former Somali counterpart, Abdirahman
Warsame, allowed Kenya – not Somalia – to
officially demarcate its maritime borders to
include the approximately 200 nautical miles off
the coast of the Horn of Africa. More precisely,
for Nairobi authorities, the MOU extended the
Kenyan boundary east to approximately the 45°
line of latitude.
Naturally, Somali authorities offer a different
view of the MOU signing. For them, the
memorandum only amounted to Mogadishu
giving the “O.K.” for Kenyan authorities to
submit their version of the East African map. In
other words, Somalia sees the MOU as simply
an ‘agree to disagree’ document. In Somalia’s
defence, this argument is not out of line, given
that in order for a country to officially submit its
boundary map to the UN Commission on the
Limits of the Continental Shelf, it must provide
proof that it has “cooperated with its
neighbours”. For Somalia, then, this document is
only proof that it ried to ‘cooperate’. In the end,
however, the Somali parliament rejected
Kenya’s views on the Indian Ocean boundaries
in August of 2009; and the East African
neighbours have been squabbling over a body
of water roughly 23,600 miles in area ever since.
Joining the Hydrocarbon Bonanza
For Somalia, the fight over the maritime
demarcation goes far deeper than a quest for
seaside riches. It is also a matter of pride. The
view among many Somalis is that their country
has been taken advantage of, not only by Kenya,
but by international firms which they have
accused of capitalising on their decades-long
lack of central government for their own
financial gain. When Kenya authorised another
round of oil contracts in July 2012, this time to
include the disputed Eni-controlled L21, L23, and
L24 blocks, Somali authorities were quick to cry
‘imperialism’. In particular, an angered Abdillahi
Mohamud, who manages the East African
Energy Forum, claimed that these oil blocks, as
well as the Total S.A-controlled L22, the
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation-bought L5,
and Statoil-run L26, were all sold off “illegally”
by Kenyan authorities. Noted Mohamud: “These
offshore oil blocks are solely owned by the
Republic of Somalia as stipulated in the 1982 UN
Common Law on the Sea (UNCLOS). Kenya’s
move to sell these oil blocks violates
international law”. Indeed, for a country which
only recently managed to achieve a presidential
election following decades of bloodshed,
Kenya’s oil block sell-off was not exactly a
morale-booster.
Pride aside, the financial ramifications of the
border demarcation is clearly of importance as
well. Whilst the exact amount of hydrocarbon
reserves in the 23,000 square miles of water
remains unknown, some reports have estimated
that, when combined with its reported onshore
reserves, Somalia could have as much as 110
billion barrels of oil. With regard to offshore
gas, in total the East African region is believed
to have 440 trillion cubic feet of recoverable
reserves. Clearly any ‘sleight of hand’ with
regard to the Somali boundaries with Kenya
could spell billions of dollars in lost revenue for
the fledgling government in Mogadishu.
The Way Ahead
The never-ending maritime dispute between
Somalia and Kenya is, by now, well understood.
Indeed, since 1972, the two countries have
been lobbying the UN to see their side of the
‘Indian Ocean’ story. Reports of possible pirate
political involvement aside, for the most part,
this disagreement has only been a war of
words. Going forward, it remains to be seen
whether the two nations will engage in a full-
scale violent confrontation over the
hydrocarbon-rich sea. If such an event were to
pass, however, Kenya is believed to have the
upper hand. Nairobi has already secured
enough powerful allies, including Norway,
France and the US (all of which have stake in
the Kenyan-authorised offshore oil blocks), that
would conceivably make a Kenyan victory a
‘sure thing’ from the start.
This is not to say, however, that the Somali
Government will not try to change the Kenya-
as-East African-powerhouse narrative. To
be sure, in 2012, the Somalia Government went
ahead and announced that it, too, would auction
approximately “308 newly delineated oil
blocks”, without seeking a cooperation
agreement with Kenya. Of course Somalia does
not want to anger its neighbour. In their weekly
meeting on 06 June 2013, cautious ministers did
state that, whilst they would seek to implement
changes to their national territory, they are
looking “forward” to working with Kenya, and
“the government of President [Uhuru]
Kenyatta Kenyatta”.

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